October 29, 2020
by: Chad Welch, Community Impact Coordinator – Education

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s that time of year where many people begin thinking about everything they have to be thankful for. An added bonus this year is that November is National Gratitude Month. It’s nice to count your blessings on Thanksgiving, but being thankful throughout the year could have tremendous benefits on your quality of life.

In fact, gratitude is a tool that each of has access to every single day of our lives. And, it doesn’t cost us anything! It’s also one of the most overlooked resources we have to help our health. Cultivating gratitude doesn’t take much time, but the benefits are enormous. Research reveals gratitude can have these seven benefits:

1. Gratitude opens doors to more relationships. Of course, saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a 2019 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or you send a quick thank-you note to that co-worker who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.

2. Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2016 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health.  They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups with their doctors, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.

3. Gratitude improves psychological health. Gratitude reduces many of the toxic emotions that creep into our lives; ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.

4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kind, according to a 2013 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.

5. Grateful people sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.

6. Gratitude improves self-esteem. A study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athlete’s self-esteem, which is an essential component to achieving your best performance. Other studies show that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs – which is a major factor in reduced self-esteem- grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.

7. Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognizing all you have to be thankful for, even during the worst times of your life, fosters resilience.

Of course always being grateful takes effort. It’s not easy, but we all have the ability to do it. We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Simply take a few moments to focus on all that you have, rather than complain about all the things you think you deserve. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.