By Kellie Bach
As we approach Thanksgiving, it is a natural time to think about what we are grateful for. As it turns out feeling grateful is wonderful for you in so many ways! Gratitude is a powerful social emotion; a deep feeling of thankfulness and it has long reaching benefits for wellness and quality of life. Multiple studies show that aside from being a socially favorable way to be with others, generally being in a place of gratitude is good for your health and improves quality of life.
What is Gratitude?
Usually gratitude is thought of as saying thank you to another for something that they have done. Gratitude can be expressed to others when you communicate that you recognize what they have done for you. However, gratitude does not have to be expressed to provide benefits. It can merely be felt, thought about or written down. It is now being shown through studies that merely being grateful for a few things a day greatly increase the quality of your life.
Gratitude Supports Intellect and Productivity
Shawn Achor, Psychologist and CEO of Good Think Inc. has been studying happiness and productivity. In his Ted Talk, he talks about the happiness advantage and how when you look through the world through a positive lens your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, and your energy levels rise. Shawn has found that “your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19% faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed.”
He has found that you can train your brain to be more positive in just a few minutes a day by doing a few important things. Writing down three new things you are grateful for each day, meditate, and practice random acts of kindness.
Gratitude Supports Well-being
The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published an interesting article titled, “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens.” It recounted and examined the results of three studies on the effects of a grateful outlook on psychological and physical well-being (including participants with neuromuscular diseases).
The findings were direct and showed the power of gratitude. “The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.”
Emmons told The San Diego Union-Tribune that those participants who kept a list of a few things they were grateful for each day tended to exercise more, had more energy and vitality, and were less bothered by pain. He also said grateful people sleep 30 minutes more each night and exercise 33% more each week. Keeping a list of what one is grateful for is a more powerful catalyst for wellness than merely thinking about it.
Gratitude Supports Healthy Sleep
Sleep is one of those all-important aspects of good health and quality of life. Sleep deprivation causes so many health concerns, from migraine headaches, to chronic pain, forgetfulness, depression, and heart disease. The Journal of Psychosomatic Research tested whether individual differences in gratitude are related to sleep after controlling for neuroticism and other traits.
The results found that gratitude bolstered how participants rated their sleep quality. It also allowed them to fall asleep faster, sleep longer and have fewer daytime dysfunctions. This is the first study to show that a positive trait such as gratitude is related to sleep quality and duration.
Gratitude Adjusts the Brain Positively
About a year ago, the journal Frontiers in Psychology published the result of a study on the neural correlates of gratitude, in which they used MRI imaging to see what is happening in the brain when one feels grateful.
To observe the effects on the brain, participants in the study were induced gratitude while undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (an MRI scan). The study was complex, but its results “provided a window into the brain circuitry for moral cognition and positive emotion that accompanies the experience of benefitting from the goodwill of others.” Also according to the researchers, gratitude “leads to benefits for both mental health and interpersonal relationships.”
Journal your gratitude
Writing three new things you are grateful for each day has a lot of positive benefits so why not start today? You can grab any notebook and start right now. We have had many journals throughout the years. However, we both have found that we forget to write our entries and often repeat ourselves. It is important to make this a daily practice and try to come up with new things to be grateful for each day. So we have developed My Gratitude Journal: 3 years of Blessings. It’s great because it covers three years, one day of each year per page, so you can reflect back on what you were grateful for the same day last year or the year before. It has these cool icons that help prompt you to think of less obvious things that you could be grateful for and helps keep you from getting into gratitude ruts where you merely repeat the same things each day.
However, whether you use a formatted journal or simply make a list of several things per day for which you are grateful, we challenge you to do so and see for yourself the up-lift in your quality of life and feelings of well-being. And what better time of year than Thanksgiving and the extended holiday season, to begin.
Kellie Bach has been a statistician for over 20 years and for the past 12 years has been the owner and lead statistician at Analytic Solutions. Over a decade ago she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which led to deep reflection and positive growth in her life. The diagnosis gave Kellie the motivation to become a certified health coach, substantially cleaning up her family’s diet, and allowing her to help many others manage various health conditions and emotional struggles. Through her own process of recovery, Kellie developed a much deeper spiritual practice which has had a huge impact on slowing the progression of MS while enriching her and her family’s lives in the process. Journaling about gratitude, she believes, is one of the cornerstones of her recovery and quality of life. She lives in suburban Philadelphia with her twin daughters and their pets. For Tambuli Media, Kellie is author of the book, My Gratitude Journal.