Grateful Attitude Brings Health

Did you know that being grateful can make you healthy? Saying ‘thank you’ and appreciating those around you affects your relationships with others and positively impacts your body.

The University of California, Davis Psychology Professor Dr. Robert Emmons has dedicated his career to understanding gratefulness and its benefits. In a 2015 UC Davis Health article, Dr. Emmons says, “The practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life.” He also explains how gratitude thwarts harmful emotions, including jealousy, bitterness, remorse, and depression, which can destroy happiness. Dr. Emmons says, “It’s impossible to feel envious and grateful at the same time.” He believes a grateful attitude improves life and health because it keeps individuals in the present moment actively enjoying their own lives. Instead of longing for what they do not have in their lives, they express value and appreciation for what they do have in life. 

How does a grateful attitude bring me health?

In 2003, Dr. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough investigated gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. The pair exposed participants to experimental conditions: hassles, gratitude listing, and either neutral life occurrences or social comparison. The subjects kept daily or weekly records of their moods, coping behaviors, health behaviors, physical symptoms, and overall life appraisals. Emmons and McCullough determined gratitude positively affected participants, including their life appraisal, amount of sleep, and quality of sleep. 

Additional scientific studies have found that expressing gratefulness before bed can help you sleep better. A 2009 study examined 401 individuals’ sleep quality to determine if being grateful impacted their sleep. The researchers noted that a thankful attitude “predicted greater subjective sleep quality and sleep duration, and less sleep latency and daytime dysfunction.”

Other scientists studied how gratefulness affects the lipid profiles of adults. A lipid profile measures high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and the total amount of cholesterol and triglyceride in the bloodstream. The research observed 1,800 adults’ fasting blood samples and discovered that a higher level of dispositional gratitude links to lower triglyceride levels and a healthier lipid profile.

In 2021, researchers conducted a digital exam of 4,825 people to study how and if a grateful attitude and optimism link to various daily moods and activities. They found that a grateful attitude “predicted lower heart rate and systolic and diastolic blood pressure, better sleep quality, more moderate and vigorous exercise, lower stress frequency, less stress intensity, greater expectations for the day, higher ratings of pleasantness of the best experience of the day, lower ratings of unpleasantness of the worst experience of the day, and greater feelings of appreciation toward a particularly close other [person].” Also, the researchers documented that a grateful attitude and optimism are associated with favorable physiological and psychological consequences.

 The 2015 UC Davis health article also describes many other benefits of gratefulness. The article notes that gratitude may lower cortisol levels as low as 23 percent. Two gratitude activities, counting blessings and writing a gratitude letter, may reduce the risk of depression in at-risk patients by 41 percent over six months. The article further states, “Grateful people (including people grateful to God) have between 9-13 percent lower levels of Hemoglobin A1c, a key marker of glucose control that plays a significant role in the diagnosis of diabetes.” Furthermore, gratitude correlates to a 10 percent improvement in sleep quality in patients with chronic pain, 76 percent of whom experienced insomnia and 19 percent lower depression levels.

Does being ungrateful hurt you?

On the contrary, complaining and listening to complaining is not beneficial to your health. A 1996 research study at Stanford University found that complaining or listening to someone complain for 30 minutes decreases the size of the hippocampus part of the brain. The hippocampus is responsible for memory retrieval, long-term memory, and spatial memory.

How can I practice a grateful attitude?

Experts recommend daily writing in a gratitude journal before going to bed. This approach may help you sleep better because your last thoughts before sleeping will be positive and uplifting. You can also thank the people you live with at home, interact with at work, the person serving you at a restaurant, the convenience store cashier and many others you come across in your daily life.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please read another insightful article and see if you are spending too much time on your phone.

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About Joey Hinojosa

Joey Hinojosa graduated with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism and a master's degree in mass communications. He began working at Empower Brokerage in early 2022 and enjoys being creative in his writing, photography, videography, and other projects.

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