The scientific research surrounding gratitude and health has led to a multitude of promising discoveries. Among the many significant findings within this field of study, UC Davis Health reports the following: Being grateful is related to decreases in measures of stress and depression.
Furthermore, practicing gratitude can slow the effects of neurodegeneration. Gratitude practices lead to decreased inflammation and lower blood pressure. Writing one letter of appreciation decreased hopelessness in 88 percent of suicidal patients and increased optimism in 94 percent.
The findings detailed above only scratch the surface of the beneficial impacts that science has revealed practicing gratitude can have. It is becoming more and more apparent that practicing gratitude has a plethora of clinical applications. Include utilizing gratitude interventions to improve a person’s mental and physical health and to treat many medical conditions and disorders.
BECOMING A MORE GRATEFUL YOU
With the extraordinary effects of gratitude being consistently demonstrated, more and more people are becoming interested in this topic. But what, exactly, is gratitude, and how can you practice it in your everyday life? Many people learn to express gratitude at an early age. But not nearly as many people learn why it is so important to do so. Nor do many people understand wholly what it looks like to practice gratitude in their daily lives.
This article will explore definitions of gratitude and explain how you can become a more grateful person. Scientific research will be utilized to demonstrate how developing and expressing gratitude can improve the quality and longevity of life. If you are interested in learning how to enhance and lengthen your life by cultivating and practicing gratitude, keep reading.
DEFINING GRATITUDE AND GRATEFULNESS
The authors of “Gratitude and Well-Being: The Benefits of Appreciation” provide the following as a clinical definition of gratitude: “gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; it is a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation.”
Gratitude is both a state and a trait, according to the authors of this peer-reviewed article. The authors explain that as a state, gratitude “is a positive, social emotion experienced when an undeserving act of kindness or generosity is freely given by another person.” As a trait, gratefulness is a characteristic or virtue of people that vary in frequency, magnitude, and length. Grateful people “experience gratitude more times per day and across a wider array of life circumstances compared to those lower in gratitude.”
An important aspect of gratitude is merely having an awareness of and appreciation for the positive aspects of life. People who practice gratitude tend to view the world through a positive lens. This outlook includes acknowledgment of the positives in their own lives and the world as a whole. Even during difficult times, people who practice gratitude count their blessings. When this takes place, people are much more likely to be thankful for their experiences and lives.
HOW BEING GRATEFUL CAN INCREASE QUALITY AND LENGTH OF LIFE
Much scientific research has revealed a significant and strong link between gratitude and improved measures of well-being and health. Being grateful can increase your quality of life and help you to live longer in the following ways:
1 – Increased Happiness:
The results of this scientific study revealed that expressing more gratitude was correlated with less depression in study participants. The study’s data also demonstrated that gratitude “fully mediated” the link between increased well-being and decreasing depression. Another study also aimed to determine the impact that gratitude has on measures of depression. Researchers found that grateful individuals dealing with financial difficulties had significantly fewer depressive symptoms than ungrateful people.
2 – Heightened Physical Health:
The results of this study that examined whether gratitude predicts physical health revealed that participants who practiced gratitude were healthier. The authors discovered that gratitude improved participants’ mental health, healthy activity participation, and willingness to obtain medical attention for health concerns. Another study had participants write a daily list of things that they were thankful for. At the end of the study, the participants practicing gratitude reported less physical affliction. Authors of this groundbreaking study investigated the impact gratitude had on the physical and mental health of breast cancer patients. Their data demonstrated that gratitude was “strongly” related to less cancer re-growth, less distress, and more positive emotions. Additionally, the authors of this article published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology report that gratitude can strengthen the immune system.
3 – Better Sleep:
This scientific study focused on the impact of gratitude on both mental and physical health in 186 heart-failure patients. Researchers discovered that gratitude connected positively with better sleep. Additionally, the study’s data determined that gratitude “fully mediated” the correlation between well-being and sleep quality. In this review of gratitude and health research, the authors report and analyze the findings of much gratitude and health research. One study found that participants who wrote in a gratitude journal for two weeks had “significantly greater sleep quality.” Another study found that gratitude “predicted better sleep quality and duration.”
4 – More Resilience:
Self-efficacy is “the optimistic self-belief that one can perform novel or difficult tasks and attain desired outcomes.” Authors of this peer-reviewed article state that self-efficacy is a “component of resilience,” and resilience is “closely related to self-efficacy.” The results of this study revealed that having more gratitude is related to having more self-efficacy. Another study examining “the role of gratitude in breast cancer patients” found gratitude to be a “common ingredient” of resilience.
5 – Stronger Relationships:
This study is one among many that have examined the role of gratitude in relationships. Results revealed that “gratitude is important for forming and maintaining the most important relationships of our lives.” Similar results indicated in several other scientific studies investigating the impact of gratitude on relationships.
6 – Greater Life Satisfaction:
This study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being examined the outcomes of individuals who participated in a gratitude intervention. Results revealed that after partaking in the 4-week gratitude contemplation, intervention participants reported higher life satisfaction. Based on their findings, the authors of the study concluded that “grateful contemplation can be used to enhance long-term well-being.”
7 – Less Aggression and Improved Patience:
This review of research reports the results of several studies examining the impact of gratitude on aggression and patience. Authors reveal that “feeling grateful seemed to protect against hurt feelings and aggressive reactions.” The research surrounding this topic has shown that individuals who practice gratitude are less likely to be easily provoked. Results demonstrate that people who practice gratitude have higher levels of empathy for others, suggesting they also have more patience.
8 – Better Self-Care Practices:
This chapter from the “Handbook of Positive Psychology” discusses many scientific study results from the leading experts in gratitude research. In one study examining the relationship between gratitude and health, “participants in the gratitude condition spent significantly more time exercising.” Another scientific study revealed that individuals who wrote in a gratitude journal ate 25 percent less fat in their diet.
9 – Can Aid in Addiction Prevention and Recovery:
The leading gratitude researchers that authored this peer-reviewed article report that “gratitude reduces lifetime risk for substance abuse disorders.” Another study evaluated the impact of a web-based gratitude intervention on a randomized sample of individuals receiving treatment for alcoholism. Results revealed that the gratitude intervention increased positive emotions, decreased negative emotions, and “was beneficial in reinforcing recovery” from alcoholism. The author of this dissertation, written for the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, also reported positive findings in this area. Her research revealed that “a grateful disposition has emotional and psychological benefits for individuals in recovery from substance addiction.”
10 – Decreased Bodily Inflammation:
This scientific study analyzed the relationship between gratitude and measures of physical health well-being. The authors of the study focused on how gratitude correlates to measures of fatigue, sleep, mood, inflammation, and cardiac health. Results revealed that patients who expressed more gratitude also had less inflammation.
11 – Reduced Pain:
Authors of this gratitude and health review that appeared in The Journal of Psychology discuss major findings within this field. Including the findings of a pain-induction study in which pain perception was less intense in participants who felt more gratitude.
12 – Lower Blood Pressure:
Both stress and anxiety can elevate a person’s blood pressure. Authors of this study concerning whether gratitude predicts physical health, report that people who express more gratitude have less stress and anxiety. Suggesting that practicing gratitude could lower a person’s blood pressure by decreasing their stress and anxiety. Additionally, the authors of this peer-reviewed article report that gratitude “can lower blood pressure.” And in this review of research, the authors report that high levels of trait gratitude are associated with lower levels of anxiety. The same authors also cite a longitudinal study that reported lower levels of stress in individuals who participated in a gratitude intervention.
A plethora of scientific research has shown that gratitude and thankfulness can multiply in a variety of ways. You can help yourself to develop more gratitude by adopting any or all of the following practices:
2) Thank people often.
4) Pay attention to the things you say.
5) Be thankful for people, not things.
6) Practice spirituality and prayers of gratitude.
7) Remember the bad and look for the good in the bad.
8) Think creatively and outside of the box about things.
9) Think positively. Notice, and be thankful for the small things.
10) Do kind things for others and volunteer for meaningful causes.
To learn more about the specific actions that you can take to cultivate gratitude, see the following resource:
Final Thoughts on Growing a More Grateful Heart
In conclusion, developing and practicing gratitude seems to have a variety of health and healing benefits. Appreciation also appears to have the potential to assist in treating quite a few mental and physical health conditions and disorders.
This article proves that a multitude of scientific researchers determined the modalities and efficacy of gratitude interventions for a variety of medical and mental health conditions and disorders. There is much solid research that supports the many beneficial impacts that gratitude may have on one’s psychological and physical health. But being the relatively new area of study that it is, further research continues to provide additional support and evidence for some of the potential uses of gratitude interventions.
Nevertheless, there is no denying that practicing gratitude is beneficial for everyone. Much like any other skill, gratitude is something that needs to be practiced and purposefully developed in everyday life. You can achieve this by incorporating any of the many gratitude-enhancing practices described in this article into your daily routine.
Cultivating gratitude doesn’t have to be overwhelming or time-consuming; you can start slowly and gradually increase your abilities. The power of positivity, recognition, and thankfulness are truly magical and life-changing things! Most importantly, you deserve to love a longer, healthier, and happier life!
You stand to gain a lot from practicing gratitude and nothing to lose. So, why not become a more grateful you today?