Gratitude is good for you

Gratitude is appreciation for things that are valuable or meaningful to the self. (1) We are often grateful to other people – “I am grateful for the sacrifices my parents made for me,” “I am thankful my neighbor helped me change a flat.”  But gratitude can also be directed at something bigger – deity for some, the universe at large for others– “I am thankful for that amazing sunrise this morning,” or “I am grateful that I have musical talent.” Regardless of where gratitude is directed, it is universally health-promoting.

  • Well-being. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at UC Davis and one of the foremost authorities on gratitude, reports that grateful individuals experience higher levels of positive emotions, more joy and pleasure, and more optimism and happiness. (2) Gratitude is also negatively associated with depression, because gratitude’s positive outlook does not make it easy for the depression triumvirate of negative beliefs about self, the world and the future to invade the psyche. (3)
  • Self-worth. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Grateful people tend to avoid this joy thief by comparing themselves less. Research by Emmons and colleagues Michael McCullough and Jo-Ann Tsang have shown that gratitude is inversely correlated with envy and resentment. (2)
  • Relationships. The secret to a more romantic relationship might be gratitude. A study of heterosexual couples in a relationship found that being grateful for something one’s partner did increased satisfaction and connectedness in the relationship for both women and men. (5)
  • Sleep. Who doesn’t love a restful sleep? And when was the last time you had one? In a 2009 study of 401 people (of which 40% had clinically impaired sleep), participants scoring highest on gratitude measures were found to have better sleep quality, less time falling asleep and better sleep duration. (4)
  • Resilience. Gratitude can influence recovery from trauma or adversity. Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD who scored high on gratitude measures were found to be better functioning than their less grateful peers, even if symptoms were the same. (3)
  • Connectedness. Gratitude is related to willingness to forgive and inversely related to narcissism, characteristics which aid in fostering healthy relationships. (3) Gratitude encourages the acknowledgement of networks of relationships, including people who have helped you in the past and present. (2)
  • Reciprocity. As gratitude focuses attention on things received and appreciated, it encourages grateful people to reciprocate and behave prosocially. Emmons asserts in his research that people who are grateful are more helpful, generous and compassionate. (2)

 

More info on the benefits of gratitude:

Gratitude and stress reduction
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mequilibrium/gratitude-benefits_b_3321351.html

Ways to cultivate gratitude
http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude

Counting your Blessings: How Gratitude Improves your Health
http://www.cfidsselfhelp.org/library/counting-your-blessings-how-gratitude-improves-your-health

 

References

  1. Sansone RA and Sansone LA. Gratitude and well being: The benefits of appreciation. Psychiatry (Edgemont). 2010;7(11):18-22.
  2. Emmons R. Why gratitude is good. Greater Good: The Science of a meaningful Life. University of California, Berkeley. Nov 16, 2010.
  3. Wood AM, Froh JJ, Geraghty AWA. Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review. 2010.
  4. Wood AM, Joseph S, Lloyd J, Atkins S. Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 2009;66:43-48.
  5. Algoe SB, Gable SL, Maisel NC. It’s the little things: Everyday gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships. Personal Relationships. 2010;17:217-233.
Dana Vaughan

About Dana Vaughan

Dana completed a Master of Public Health (MPH) and a Master of Social Work (MSW) at San Diego State University, and has worked in family planning education, prenatal counseling, and child development. She loves her mountain bike, her husband, her kids, and her faith—although possibly not in that order.

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