Want to feel better? Try an attitude of gratitude. Your mom always said that saying “thank you” wouldn’t kill you. Turns out, it might help you live longer. Studies link gratitude to better physical health, better resilience under pressure, and more happiness in life.
Psychology Today cites studies that indicate grateful people, meaning those who view gratitude as a permanent way of viewing the world, have fewer physical complaints and report feeling healthier than those who are not. They tend to take better care of themselves, exercise regularly, eat healthily, and make more frequent preventive doctor visits. (1)
Gratitude breeds optimism, a characteristic linked to a healthier immune system. Optimistic law students in a recent study maintained more blood cells than their less optimistic peers—critical for keeping healthy during a stressful and rigorous semester. (2)
Improve your resilience
Mental toughness and greater resilience are connected with gratitude as well. When hard times come, a grateful attitude holds despair at bay. Grateful people tend to focus outward, consider the good, and be mindful of what they have. The framework of gratitude is a powerful way to confront challenges. (2)
Vietnam War veterans, a group that experienced high levels of trauma and stress during their time overseas, were evaluated in a study published in 2006. Those who reported high levels of gratitude were found to be more resilient, tougher mentally, and better able to overcome the effects of trauma in Vietnam. Grateful vets were found to be less affected by post-traumatic stress disorder. (3)
Good health and resilience are great, but improved happiness is gratitude’s trump card. A study at University of Pennsylvania showed that patients who wrote and personally delivered letters of gratitude for past kindness showed the highest increases in happiness scores over all other types of interventions in the study. (4)
Gratitude helps us feel more positive emotions and enjoy good experiences (5) and opens our eyes to the goodness around us. It also shields from negative emotions, including those that stem from social comparisons like envy and resentment. (6) All of this translates to better life satisfaction and more feelings of happiness.
Gratitude is an easy attitude adjustment, and it packs a powerful punch for your health. Try one of these ways to be grateful, to get you started:
- Say “thank you” to someone serving you, even if it is their job.
- Reflect quietly for two minutes on the beauty around you.
- Send a “thank you” text to a friend.
- Count your blessings—think of 5 things you are glad you have in your life.
- Write your parents an email of thanks.
- Think of someone who has positively affected your life and mentally thank them.
To find more reasons gratitude is good for you, look here: