Practicing gratitude has both physical and mental health benefits as well as offering potential benefits for our relationships.
Gratitude can take the form of saying thank you for someone opening the door for us, or expressing gratitude for a family member’s recovery. Keeping a gratitude diary for two weeks produced sustained reductions in perceived stress and depression in health-care workers. Two gratitude activities, counting blessings and gratitude letters, reduced the risk of depression in patients by 41 percent over a six month period.
The Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
IMPROVES IMMUNE RESPONSE AND PHYSICAL HEALTH
The practice of gratitude can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. Gratitude reduces lifetime risk for substance abuse disorders, and is a key resiliency factor in the prevention of suicide.
In numerous studies, gratitude is associated with higher levels of good cholesterol (HDL), lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), and lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, both at rest and in the face of stress. It also has been linked with higher levels of heart rate variability, a marker of cardiac coherence, or a state of harmony in the nervous system and heart rate that is equated with less stress and mental clarity.
MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS
A large study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University showed that thankfulness predicted a significantly lower risk of major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, phobia, nicotine dependence, alcohol dependence and drug abuse.
In addition, studies show that psychological well-being directly associated with human potential and growth has been linked to gratitude. Those who experience poor well-being are over seven times more likely to be diagnosed with depression later in life. So essentially, gratitude helps us reach our goals and has the ability to build resilience to depression.
HELPS IMPROVE RELATIONSHIPS
Being grateful can also help strengthen relationships. Harvard Health shows that couples who express gratitude for their partner, and do that regularly, feel more positively towards their partner. Research has even shown that expressing gratitude releases oxytocin or the “love hormone” which builds a greater connection and bond between two people.
Gratitude increases optimism, and enthusiasm has been proven to boost the immune system. According to a study by Harvard Medical school, for both men and women, higher levels of optimism were associated with a longer life span and “exceptional longevity,” which the researchers defined as surviving to 85. A 2019 study also revealed that optimism can lead to reducing your chances of infection and cancer.
Originally published on Alexis Azria’s website.