Gratitude is an attitude of counting your blessings. It’s about feeling appreciative or thankful for what you have, rather than focussing on what you don’t have. The benefits of practising gratitude are numerous and range from better sleep to having a stronger immune system.
How is being grateful good for your health?
Research shows that gratitude improves our physical, psychological and social wellbeing. This is because by feeling grateful, we:
- improve our mood
- take better care of our health
- lower our blood pressure
- sleep better
- increase our resilience
- get on better with other people.
Proof that gratitude works
Through the ages, philosophers and religious teachers have made a connection between gratitude and general wellbeing. Science has now confirmed this.
Studies have found that:
- Gratitude is the best predictor of wellbeing out of any character strength.
- People with heart disease improve their heart health through practising gratitude.
- Teenagers who feel grateful are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
- Grateful people have more self-control, which helps with healthy eating and quitting smoking.
- Gratitude reduces insomnia and depression, increases happiness and improves immunity.
- Counting your blessings improves your self-esteem, because when you feel better about your life, you are less likely to compare yourself negatively with others.
Some people are naturally more grateful than others. But the good news is we can all become more grateful through practice.
How to practice gratitude
Keep a gratitude diary:
- Each day, write down in a notebook three things you feel grateful for.
- Do this in the morning or evening, whichever works best for you.
- Do it every day to get the most benefit from it.
- Be specific – focussing on details works best. So instead of writing “I feel grateful for my partner”, write “I appreciate that my partner made me a cup of tea this evening”.
- Keep looking for new things to be grateful for.
Other ways of developing gratitude:
- Saying thank you. See how many times during the day you can say thank you to someone for a small thing. If it’s a bigger thing, write a thank you note.
- Keeping a reminder with you of something you feel grateful for. A photo of your family or pet on your screensaver, a sound recording of your baby or grandmother on your phone, or that trinket in your purse or pocket that reminds you of a great holiday.
- Picking something you take for granted and feeling grateful for it. This could be your toothbrush, car or coffee mug; it could be having legs to walk with or eyes to see with; or it could be the sun, fresh air or nature.
- Doing a gratitude meditation. Sit quietly with your eyes closed, and focus one by one on all the people you feel grateful for, whether they are still alive or not. Send each one loving thoughts and feelings.
- Writing a gratitude letter. Write a letter to someone you feel grateful for. You don’t have to send it, but if you do, you’ll feel even better, and even more so, if you read it out to them!
- Including the family. Kids can learn to increase their feelings of gratitude too. At dinner, ask each person to name one thing they are grateful for from their day.
- Feeling thankful when you wake up in the morning. Each new day is a gift of life. Appreciate it!
Happify This site has interactive games and activities on gratitude and other aspects of happiness
9 best books on gratitude There are lots of books on gratitude. Find one in your library or download an ebook. This list will get you started.
Online NZ support to strengthen wellbeing Ignite , NZ
- Why gratitude is good Emmons, RA. Greater good: The science of a meaningful life. 2010 Nov 16.
- Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective wellbeing in daily life Emmons, RA, McCullough, ME. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003 Feb. 84(2):377-389.
- Examining the pathways between gratitude and self-rated physical health across adulthood Hilla PL, Allemand M, Roberts BW. Personality and Individual Differences. 2013 Jan. 54(1), 92–96.
- Gratitude and wellbeing: A review and theoretical integration Wood, AM, Froh JJ Froh, Geraghty AW.A. Clinical Psychology Review. 2010 Nov. 30(7), 890–905.
- How gratitude leads to good health and happiness Happify Daily.
- The science behind gratitude (and how it can change your life) Carpenter D.