Thanksgiving and the holiday season are just around the corner, providing a nice reminder to think about what we’re grateful for. Gratitude is something we can and should focus on throughout the year to look at life through a positive lens. It also can create amazing benefits for our health and well-being.
Below are five scientifically proven reasons why practicing gratitude is good for our health.
Improves physical health
According to Harvard Medical School, after a 10-week research study where some participants were asked to keep a weekly journal of what they were grateful for while others were asked to keep a journal about their irritations, those who focused on gratitude exercised more frequently and had fewer visits to their physicians. Being grateful can ease our stress levels, which in turn can help prevent physical ailments that negatively impact our health, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, headaches and other aches and pains in the body.
Improves mental health
Practicing gratitude on a consistent basis can positively impact our mindset, which can ward off anxiety and depression. If we constantly think about problems, struggles and what we don’t have in life, anxiety and depression are sure to follow. However, if we focus on all the things we do have in life and how lucky we truly are, even amid challenges, our mental attitude will shift and we’ll gain a much deeper and healthier perspective on life.
Our sleep can naturally be affected when we’re stressed, wound up and overwhelmed. We often toss and turn and feel our minds racing in the middle of the night. However, if we write down or think about one or more things we’re grateful for that day, week or in life in general, our minds and hearts are more likely to relax and feel a sense of peace before going to sleep, which will help improve the quality of our sleep. The more sleep we get, the better our perspective will be, which continues to feed a healthy cycle of gratitude.
Our relationships are some of the most important aspects of our lives and can often be impacted by our perceptions of them. If we constantly feel bitter, resentful or annoyed with our loved ones (for no significant reason and assuming everything is normal and healthy overall), these relationships will inevitably suffer, as those closest to us will feel the negative energy we’re giving off. However, if we let the little and insignificant annoyances go and instead focus on all the reasons why these people are so dear to us, we’ll naturally be kind and loving to them. And they’ll likely be kind and loving right back, which will improve these relationships overall.
Social media, technology, fast-paced lifestyles and competitive work and school environments can often make us compare ourselves to others and feel less than. And if we’re constantly thinking about all the things others have or are doing or accomplishing, our self-esteem will suffer. The good news is we have the ability to control what we expose ourselves to and how we view our own lives, accomplishments and experiences. Being grateful and focusing on the abundance in the world and all we have to offer and all that’s offered to us will improve our self-esteem and help us feel better about our lives.
This season, let’s all make an effort to practice gratitude and make it a daily habit we can carry through the next year and beyond. Our physical and mental health, sleep, relationships and self-esteem will thank us for it.
Reena Vokoun is founder of Los Altos-based Passion Fit, a health, wellness and fitness lifestyle company that offers online courses, wellness consulting and retreats, fitness workouts and more.