5 Reasons Why Gratitude is Essential to Good Health

I know, I know, gratitude posts are a dime a dozen this time of year! But there's good reason for that: Many of us whiz through our lives at top speed, never pausing to breathe, consider, and give thanks for everything that's going right. The Thanksgiving holiday gives our entire country access to a gigantic, shared pause button. And while I agree that all the “be grateful!” messages can get a little shout-y at times, I also think it's essential that we absorb them so we can tap into that positive, thankful mindset.

Still need convincing? Here are 5 compelling, mind-body reasons why gratitude can impact your health and well-being.

1.     Gratitude helps you sleep better

A recent article in “Dr. Oz the Good Life” cited a study done by Robert Emmons, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of California Davis. In it, people with neuromuscular disorders were asked to create gratitude journals, listing out the things they were thankful for each night. The study found that after just three weeks, they were able to sleep longer and felt more refreshed on waking. This practice will work for anyone since focusing on aspects of your life that inspire gratitude helps push away negative thoughts and worries that might disrupt your slumber.

2.     Gratitude makes you more resilient
Dr. Emmons also wrote a book titled Gratitude Works! And in it he says, "A grateful stance toward life is relatively immune to both fortune and misfortune." In other words, when we are attuned to the good in life and open to seeing positive aspects of negative situations, we're able to bounce back more quickly from loss and trauma.

3.     Gratitude improves your physical health in measurable ways
Sounds like a stretch, right? Studies cited in “Real Simple” magazine state that gratitude practices have been associated with improved kidney function, reduced blood-pressure, diminishedstress-hormone levels, and a stronger heart. Pretty amazing, if you ask me! Experts have stated that they believe the link between gratitude and good health is related to self-care. People who feel lucky and blessed tend to appreciate their health more than others, and that appreciation leads them to take better care of themselves. They avoid excesses and self-destructive behaviors, exercise more, and sleep longer.

4.     Gratitude boosts your self-esteem
Gratitude practices don't just help you appreciate your situation in life, they build your confidence. In 2014, the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology published a study stating that focusing on gratitude increased self-esteem in athletes. (Without self-confidence, athletes struggle to reach optimal performance.) Other studies cited in this Forbes article have shown that gratitude helps people stop making harmful social comparisons. When we're buoyed by thankfulness, we're able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments without getting bogged down by jealousy.

5.     Gratitude makes you less impulsive
In one study, researchers asked people to recall an event that made them feel grateful and write about it for five minutes. Afterwards, they exhibited better impulse control, especially around spending decisions. If you're grappling with money issues, force yourself to stop and think of something or someone you appreciate. Doing so will likely help you be more measured in your decisions. Good to know with all those Black Friday sales on the horizon!

Do you have gratitude practices that help you focus on the positive in your life? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!