Gratitude - A Key Ingredient for a Healthy Life
Gratitude is not about what people possess or do not have. There are unsatisfied and depressed millionaires as well as poor people living their life with contentment and optimism. The tendency of being grateful is a mental attitude, it requires an attitude transformation and it can be developed. It is particularly important for people recovering from a medical procedure, a severe injury or addiction, to learn how to cultivate this positive outlook because it can ensure their well-being in the future.
There are many studies which prove scientifically that expressing gratitude can improve physical, emotional and mental health. Gratitude and health go hand in hand.
Gratitude and Emotional Health
A study on gratitude showed that participants writing a gratitude journal experienced a significant reduction in depressive symptoms for several weeks. (Seligman et al., 2005). This finding suggests that gratitude journaling can be an effective addition to treatments for depression. Gratitude also increases self-esteem, optimism and enhance positive emotions and empathy.
Gratitude and Physical Health
According to a study on the benefits of gratitude, patients with hypertension expressing their attitude at least once a week experienced a significant decrease in blood pressure. (Shipon, 1977). Another study of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital found that acute coronary syndrome patients experienced better improvements in their health-condition and reductions in depression and anxiety when they approached recovery with gratitude and a positive outlook. (Millstein, Celano, Beale, Beach, Suarez, Belcher,..& Huffman, 2016). According to these researchers, if you want a healthy heart, start counting your blessings and express your gratitude.
According to another study, expressing gratitude regularly for 2 weeks, reduced blood pressure and increased sleep quality in participants, leading to enhanced well-being (Jackowska, Brown, Ronaldson, & Steptoe, 2016). Gratitude journaling improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. If you're having trouble sleeping or you wake up often feeling fatigue, count your blessings and try gratitude journaling exercise before going to sleep.
Gratitude and Mental Health
Gratitude leads to mental health and increases mental strength. Studies have shown that gratitude reduces stress and may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy presents that Vietnam War veterans manifesting gratitude regularly experienced lower rates of post-traumatic disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude had a key role in resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11.
The Important Role of Gratitude in Recovery
Beyond improving physical and mental health, gratitude has also been applied to help recovery from several medical conditions. Whether the issue is substance abuse, a physical ailment or recovery after medical procedures, gratitude might be able to help the patients to take control again of their lives and get well. In recovery from an addiction, it can be easy to lose sight of positivity. Struggling with withdrawal symptoms and facing tough realities during the recovery can make it difficult to see things positively. Researchers and addiction program specialists came to the same conclusion, that gratitude can play an essential role in recovery from substance misuse and addictions. For many, gratitude can start with the idea of being grateful for the opportunity to recover. Expressing gratitude seems to help by enabling the inner resources that persons can call on in their journey towards a quality life (Chen, 2017).
Studies on the Benefits of Gratitude
Emmons and McCullough’s (2003) groundbreaking article, entitled "Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life," presents three studies conducted to explore the potential benefits of gratitude:
- Gratitude leads to more fulfilling relationships.
- Gratitude improves physical health.
- Gratitude improves psychological health.
Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the benefits of gratitude. His research confirms that gratitude increases happiness and leads to overall well-being.
We all have the ability to cultivate gratitude. Instead of complaining about the things we don’t have, let us focus on all that we received. One of the simplest and easiest ways to improve the quality of our lives is to develop gratitude.
The more grateful we are, more likely we will enjoy better health. All studies on gratitude lead to one essential conclusion - grateful people are healthy people!