This time of year resonates with messages of gratitude and appreciation for all that we have in our lives including family, friends, neighbors, even acquaintances, but did you know the act of showing gratitude can have a positive impact on your health? While it may be hard to see a physical relationship between giving thanks and your health, studies show the chemical connection is there. -All American Healthcare Covington
Do you remember the last time you went out of your way to be kind to someone you know or love just to show appreciation? Now, do you remember how you and the recipient of your actions felt afterwards? Studies suggest that showing gratitude and reflecting on that simple act of kindness can have positive psychological, social and physical impacts on your body, especially your mind.
What is Gratitude
The word gratitude originates from the Latin word gratus, meaning “thankfulness, appreciation of kindness.” Gratitude can be categorized as an attitude, emotion, personality trait, motive or coping device, but at its core, gratitude can be defined by one or more of the definitions below:
- Quality or condition of being thankful; the appreciation of an inclination to return kindness
- A felt sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life
- A cognitive-affective state, prototypically related to the perception that one has received a personal benefit that was neither earned nor deserved, but bestowed through the good intentions of some benevolent source
Research on Gratitude
Studies have shown that people who regularly give thanks and show gratitude have a leg up on their overall health. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California at Davis, has been a leading researcher in this field and termed the study “positive psychology.”
Emmons partnered with University of Miami professor Micheal McCullough to conducted three studies the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its effect on human health and well-being. The first two studies consisted of healthy college students while the third study focused on adults with various congenital and acquired neuromuscular disorders.
During each study, some participants were told to keep a journal on a weekly basis for ten weeks while others were told to keep a journal on a daily basis for two or three weeks. Within these groups were subgroups which determined what the individual was suppose to journal about:
Group A recorded things for which they were grateful (ie, they were “counting their blessings’’)
Group B recorded things they found annoying and/or irritating
Group C recorded things that had a major impact on them
Results from his research have shown that those who adopt an “attitude of gratitude” as a permanent mindset experience several health benefits.
- Those who kept a journal of gratitude experienced higher levels of well-being and reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week.
- Those who kept gratitude journals were also more likely to make progress towards personal goals.
- A daily gratitude journal for young adults resulted in higher levels of positive state of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.
- Participants who kept a daily gratitude journal were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem.
- In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.
- There was also a positive effect of a grateful outlook for participants who kept a journal for ten weeks vs. those who kept a journal for two to three weeks.
Overall, the act of gratitude can have a positive impact on your mind and overall well-being. Grateful people have shown to report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, optimism, and lower levels of depression and stress.
Changing your mindset can literally change your life, so don’t wait for the season of giving to roll around before you show gratitude and appreciation. Practice gratitude all year long!