If a pill could reduce anxiety and depression, improve sleep, boost mood, and enhance immune function, everyone would take it. A quick-fix solution like that is exactly what everyone wants, but such a pill does not exist. Fortunately, you can practice gratitude, which can provide all of those aforementioned health benefits, according to several studies.
Clinical trials indicate that regularly practicing gratitude can have a long-lasting effects on a person’s well-being. It may help improve immune response, contribute to better sleep, and even lower blood pressure. A recent study found that people who were more grateful had better heart health, specifically less inflammation and better heart rhythms. Another study found that people who kept a gratitude journal had a reduced intake of dietary fats – as much as 25% lower than those who did not keep a gratitude journal.
What’s The Right Amount Of Gratitude?
You should practice gratitude daily, plain and simple. If that magic pill existed, you’d take it every day, so that’s why gratitude has a place in your everyday life. In fact, starting your day by thinking of someone or something that you’re grateful for can set you on a healthier path. Send a family member or friend a funny text or thoughtful message. Ask your barista how their day is going when you get coffee. At the end of the day, consider writing three things that you appreciate about your life in a gratitude journal.
Behavior Changes Biology
Your behavior changes biology, meaning that positive gestures benefit the body. The way this works is that the body releases oxytocin, a hormone that helps connect people. Oxytocin is often referred to as “the love hormone” because it aids better connections. Thanking people for their efforts or who they are also benefits them, as they feel appreciated and valued. Sharing kindness and gratitude can make both partiers happier!
Decrease Stress Levels
According to research, thinking about what you appreciate can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, the calming part of the nervous system. Researchers note that this can have protective effects on the body, one of which is the reduction in cortisol levels. Cortisol is healthy in certain amounts, but high levels can impair sleep, increase anxiety, and cause overeating, among other things. By reducing cortisol and increasing oxytocin, you ultimately feel more love and have a drive to continue expressing gratitude.
Increase Positive Emotions
If you want higher levels of positive emotions, including joy, pleasure, happiness, and optimism, gratitude is your ticket. Researchers concur that people who regularly practice gratitude have stronger social relationships and fewer feelings of isolation and loneliness. This may result from being more generous, compassionate, and forgiving. A recent study found that gratitude may also reduce the frequency or duration of depressive episodes.
Improve Physical Health
In addition to the mental and social benefits, practicing gratitude can also improve physical health. Research studies show that people who practice gratitude are more likely to exercise regularly and take better care of their physical health. These results are consistent among a study of people with neuromuscular disease. Additional studies show that highly gracious people sleep better and have fewer body pains and aches.
You can easily practice gratitude in everyday life. There’s no need to dwell on imperfections or negative emotions because recognizing and appreciating what’s around you is more conducive to your mental and physical health. Simple tricks to help practice gratitude every day include:
- Keeping a gratitude journal
- Writing thank you notes, texts, emails, or calling people on the phone
- Starting a gratitude jar to pay it forward
- Giving mental “thank yous” (to people you aren’t able to acknowledge in other ways)
- Practice meditation or prayer