The numbers are in and the facts are clear: gratitude helps you live longer. That’s because the more grateful you are for what you have, the happier you are. And the happier you are, the healthier you’ll be. Gratitude doesn’t just improve your physical, psychological and emotional health — it also makes you into a nicer person. Here’s how it happens.
Gratitude Improves Physical Health
People who display gratitude have:
- 16% fewer physical symptoms
- 10% less physical pain
- 25% increased sleep quality
Cancer survivors like Barbara Tako believe that “actively choosing to regularly practice gratitude is a powerful tool to manage the worries and fears of being a patient or a survivor.” This may be because the regions of the brain that are involved in happiness are also involved in blood-vessel function and inflammation. Studies have shown that levels of the stress hormone cortisol tend to rise and fall with emotion. People who practice gratitude experience less stress, because they don’t tend to dwell on negatives and feel more empowered to overcome hurdles.
Gratitude Improves Psychological Health
Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. According to Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, a leading gratitude researcher, gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression.
Gratitude Improves Self-Esteem
A grateful person is more likely to accept that someone else is being nice to him. He’s able to take the kindness that someone else shows him at face value, because he believes that he’s a person worth of receiving kindness. On the other hand, someone with low self-esteem leans towards seeing an act of kindness with a skeptical eye. He’s more likely to think that his benefactor had ulterior motives and is simply trying to get something from them.
Gratitude Increases Mental Resilience
Research shows that gratitude not only reduces stress, but also plays a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. When you can recognize, even in the worst of times, that you have things you can thankful for, you’re more likely to have the resilience to bounce back.
Gratitude Makes you More Likely to Exercise
If you have less pain and are feeling rested, you’re more likely to exercise. Grateful people exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups. Both these facts contribute to longevity.
Gratitude Makes you into a Nicer Person
Saying thank you and showing appreciation for favors makes you into a nicer person. But the benefits don’t end with the nice words. Showing appreciation actually helps you win new friends, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. Sending a thank-you note to the therapist who called you to check how you where doing after a challenging OT session can lead to a new friendship. By becoming more trusting, social, and appreciative, you can deepen your existing relationships and make new friends.
So how do we go about cultivating this captivating trait of gratitude?
The Easy Key to Cultivating Gratitude
More and more people have started keeping a five-minute daily gratitude journal. By spending just five minutes jotting down a few grateful thoughts before falling asleep, you learn to flex your gratitude muscles. And there are additional benefits. People who keep a gratitude journal sleep better and longer. And there’s more. In one 11-week study of 96 Americans, those who were instructed to keep a weekly gratitude journal exercised 40 minutes more per week than the control group.
Gratitude reduces feelings of envy, makes our memories happier, lets us experience good feelings, and helps us bounce back from stressful situations. So throw out the negativity and bring in the gratitude. Because it looks like gratitude can help you live longer.
Rhona Lewis is a healthcare freelance writer with over 11 years of writing experience that she uses to help healthcare companies grow their authority and create brand awareness. Her background as a journalist means she’s curious enough to ask the right questions and committed to thorough research. She has a knack for breaking down complex medical concepts into content that a lay audience will read till the end.