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7 Ways Gratitude Affects Your Health

You might have heard a lot recently about how you need to develop a practice of gratitude. It all sounds nice in theory, but sometimes we need to understand the true benefits before we commit to action. Showing gratitude sounds like a good idea, yet how can gratitude affect our lives in a positive way? Here is a list of the top benefits you might experience from incorporating a practice of gratitude in your life.

1. Gratitude increases your mental health.

A recent study found that people who were struggling with depression and anxiety were able to increase their positive feelings by writing gratitude letters. It did take consistent practice over time for them to see results, but the evidence is clear that by focusing on the experiences and people in our lives, we can decrease our mental struggles. The people in the study didn’t even have to send their gratitude letters to have wonderful effects. Of course, sharing your gratitude with others is always a great way to spread your joy to others.

2. Gratitude strengthens your relationships.

Feeling and expressing gratitude toward your family and friends strengthens your relationships. You will deepen your commitment and connection to the people that matter the most to you. Gratitude takes you out of a self-centered way of thinking and turns the focus on your appreciation for how other people add to your life. When you share your feelings of gratitude with those people, they get to share in your connection.

3. Gratitude reduces your stress.

It’s no secret that what we think about a lot is what we give our attention and time to. When we spend a lot of time thinking about all the things in life that are negative, we also increase our stress levels and depression. Instead, if you start to think about the things you feel grateful for, your attention goes to the positives in your life. Stress makes life feel frustrating and even hopeless. Gratitude makes us realize how much good we have in our lives. It also helps us to remember that we have many things to be thankful for.

4. Gratitude makes you more likely to do self-care practices.

When life seems miserable and the future looks bleak, the last thing we want to do is meditate or go for a run. Instead, we might pour ourselves a couple glasses of wine or drown our sadness in a pint of ice cream. Instead, when we spend more time shifting our thinking to the positive things in our lives that we are thankful for, we feel energized enough to create more of the good stuff.

5. Gratitude makes your body happy.

Stress triggers a cascade of hormones that can increase inflammation in your body and just generally make you feel yucky. When you’re constantly in fight or flight mode, your physical health degrades and it can even shave some time off your life. Practicing gratitude allows you to decrease those inflammation-triggering hormones and boost your relaxation hormones. When you spend more time thinking about the things you are thankful for, your body benefits from your more relaxed, peaceful state of being.

6. Gratitude makes your job better.

When you feel more grateful at work, you see more of the positives instead of just the negatives. This might make you act more friendly, express your gratitude to your coworkers, and get more done because of your good vibes while working. If you’ve developed a practice of gratitude at work, you might also be able to better see a not-so-healthy work environment and feel empowered enough to change it or to change jobs. Practicing gratitude can help you develop your career in a more positive, effective way.

7. Gratitude makes your life go more smoothly.

When you create a consistent practice of gratitude, it will start to impact all areas of your life. Your mind and body will feel more healthy and vibrant. You’ll start to treat others with more consideration, appreciation, and kindness. You might sleep better and have better performance with your exercise and other self-care practices. Your friends and family might notice the change in you and be inspired. Your boss might take notice and be more interested in helping you develop your career. Your frame of mind will change and it might cause you to make positive changes in all areas of your life.

Getting Started with Gratitude

Now that you know how much of an impact gratitude could have on your life, you might wonder how to get started. There are a number of ways you could begin to be thankful and no one way is the “right” way. Pick what works for your life and sounds like something you will do every day. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Create a gratitude journal and write out a list of things you’re grateful for every morning or evening.
  • When you wake up in the morning, think of ten things you’re grateful for before you climb out of bed.
  • Get the family involved and play gratitude games with your kids or partner. Everyone takes a turn naming one thing (great practice before a meal or during long car rides).
  • Write a letter or send a message to someone telling them how grateful you are for them and/or something they did for you.
  • Don’t forget your pets. Tell your pets about your gratitude for them. Animals are great listeners.