Walking through the world with gratitude doesn’t just make you feel happier, it actually imparts physical and mental health benefits. Studies have linked gratitude to:
- Reduced stress
- Improved sleep
- Enhanced well-being
- Better heart health
Other studies show that expressing gratitude produces measurable changes in:
- Mood neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin
- Blood sugar levels
- Reproductive, social bonding, and stress hormones
- Inflammation and immune systems
- Blood pressure, cardiac, and EEG rhythms
Rather than focusing on a perceived sense of lack, turn your attention to all that you have to be grateful for. Gratitude improves health, and your mind and body will reap the benefits. And yes, the little things count.
How a Gratitude Journal Heals
A simple way to nurture more gratitude in your life is to keep a gratitude journal. A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality showed how positive writing can generate health benefits. Ninety undergraduate students were divided into two groups. Over the course of three days, group 1 wrote about a positive experience, while group 2 wrote on a control topic. Remarkably, after two to three months, subjects who wrote about a positive event reported better moods, fewer visits to the doctor, and fewer illnesses.
Keeping a Gratitude Journal
Keeping a gratitude journal is simple. Keep a notebook by your bed—you can even save your gratitude journal as a list on your smartphone! Wake up, rub the sleep out of your eyes, and jot down five things you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be world rocking. You can be grateful for the green smoothie you’re going to have for lunch, the wonderful dinner with friends the evening before, the fact that you have a roof over your head or income coming in. Get creative! You’ll soon find you have quite a bit to be thankful for and will start seeing (and feeling) gratitude everywhere.
Be Grateful for Your Food
Another way to foster gratitude is to give thanks before every meal. Blessing your meal is an ancient practice that helps connect you to your food and instill gratitude for all the work that went into it, from planting, to harvesting, to cooking.
In those moments when you are mired in misery and focusing on all the things you don’t have and everything that may be “wrong,” check yourself and take time to express gratitude for all the things you do. Your health will thank you.