3 Ways Giving Thanks is Good for Your Health
Being thankful or grateful is important, but for many of us, it’s something we only think about a few times a year. Whether it’s a favor a friend did for you, a family member who was there for you during a tough time, or simply just a recognition that you have many positive things in your life, there are plenty of blessings to be counted, if you look hard enough.
An “attitude of gratitude” isn’t just something that makes you smile (or makes the person you’re thankful for smile), though. Giving thanks may actually be good for your health! Here’s proof:
- It may keep blood pressure in check.
Numerous studies have been done to determine the relationship between gratitude and health, including specific research into its effects on blood pressure levels. A 2002 study of 82 African American patients being treated for hypertension found that those who participated in a gratitude exercise had lower systolic blood pressure after 10 weeks. Another more recent study found that those who regularly show gratitude have less inflammation in and around their heart, a more normal cardiac rhythm and lower blood pressure.
- It’ll help you sleep better.
It should come as no surprise that focusing on positive thoughts (like “I’m lucky to have such a wonderful family” or even “I’m so thankful for my morning caffeine!”) will help you cut down on worry and anxiety that can keep you up at night. In one study, participants who were randomly assigned to record things they were grateful for reported better sleep. In another, people who were already practicing gratitude and positive mindful activities reported falling asleep faster and getting better quality sleep.
- It can help your immune system.
Here’s something to be thankful for: not being sick! Did you know that daily gratitude practice may help you prevent certain illnesses by strengthening your immune system? One study found that even in high-stress situations, people with a more optimistic outlook had more disease-fighting immune cells in their bodies.
How to be more grateful
You’re busy. You’re stressed. Life can be pretty tough sometimes -- so how can you get in the right mindset or make time to be thankful?
- Keep a gratitude journal: It doesn’t need to be fancy -- just a plain notebook will do. When a thought of gratefulness enters your head (no matter how fleeting), write it down. Go back to your list anytime you need to get into a positive headspace.
- Don’t forget the little things: Be thankful for as much as you can, not just big things or grand gestures.
- Do something for someone: One fast way to boost your mood when you’re feeling down or not particularly grateful, is to do something nice for someone else!