The Health Benefits of Gratitude
As Edward Sandford Martin once said, “Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man, it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.” Being thankful is good for your heart, body, mind and spirit every day. Derived from the Latin word gratia, gratitude means grace, graciousness or gratefulness. It is recognition of what is good in your life, appreciating what you have, and valuing thankfulness. Gratitude also helps you recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside of yourself—in people, nature or a spiritual connection.
The health benefits of being grateful lead to increased overall happiness:
• Emotional: You will have more good feelings and memories, and feel more relaxed and resilient
• Personality: You will be more optimistic, empathetic and spiritual; have a higher self-esteem; and find yourself less materialistic, bitter and self-concerned
• Social: You will be kinder, more social and trusting, and have deeper relationships
• Health: You will get more sleep, eat healthier, have more energy, exercise more regularly and increase your lifespan; you will see a decrease in illness and depression
• Career: You will have better management, networking, goal achievement, productivity and decision-making skills. (One study showed that grateful high-school students typically perform better scholastically and have better social integration and satisfaction in life compared to their not-grateful counterparts.)
What are some ways to be grateful?
• Choose to look at the glass as half-full. It is not so much a challenging situation that is upsetting, but rather your perception of it. When one door closes, another—sometimes multiple ones—opens. Find gratefulness in the fact that they may not be what you expected, but they were meant to be.
• Write it down. Keeping a gratitude journal that you write in daily can help you find thankfulness. Entries can stem from the important (health, freedom from oppression, the food you eat) to the mundane (clothing, television, the Internet).
• Express gratitude to those you love. As writer William Arthur Ward said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Take the time to pick up the phone, write a letter, or email to tell your loved ones how they have impacted you. Reciprocate by doing something thoughtful for them, or simply look them in the eyes and tell them they make the world a better place.
• Express gratitude to people who support and serve. Whether they serve at home, on the job, within your community or for the country, thank those individuals with words, a smile or by writing a note. Tell their bosses they are doing a great job, or leave a larger-than-usual tip.
• Express gratitude to people you work with. You spend the better part of most days with your colleagues. Expressing gratitude to them not only can foster team building, but can also improve productivity. Consider buying them coffee, writing them thank you notes or emails, complimenting them when they do something well, or offering to help them with their duties.
• Express gratitude to those who challenge you. Every relationship provides an opportunity to love, trust, forgive, set boundaries and teach. Be grateful for the lessons people taught you, the new perspective on life they gave you, and even that they are no longer in your life.
Being thankful with a sincere attitude of gratitude can bring you happiness, which affects your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. Every day, focus on what you have and not what you lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.