Common courtesy is something that should be learned from an early age and continually practiced. One aspect of common courtesy is being thankful. More than making one a better, more personable human, being thankful can enhance health. As you might assume, the health benefits from gratitude are rooted in psychological health. An improved mental state, however, does spill over into physical health.
Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Sounds simple enough. Being and staying positive more often than not will help ward off depression. Of course, that is easier said than done. One way to apply this idea is to keep a gratitude journal. Jotting down a few things that you are thankful for will help keep positive thoughts on the forefront. A gratitude journal is just like keeping a food or fitness journal to help you stay on track. Recording a few things from the day just before bedtime may also improve sleep. The old adage “don’t go to bed angry” isn’t just for relationships; it can actually improve your physical health through better sleep.
Speaking of relationships, whether social or workplace, gratitude can improve those as well. Socially, we humans like to be liked. Maybe you aren't the type of person who craves to be liked by every person you encounter, but it certainly beats the alternative. The ability to show gratitude improves personal relationships, both in friendships and romantically. In the workplace, this ability is important to become a better co-worker or manager. The ability to be thankful helps one become more patient, which in turn improves decision-making. A simple ‘thank you’ also goes a long way in improving teamwork and a sense of importance and belonging. The overall message is that improved interpersonal relationships through gratitude, again, improves mental well-being.
Potential physical health benefits from a gratitude attitude include:
- Better Sleep– This was already mentioned, but beyond just feeling better in the morning, there are physiological benefits from improved sleep. Ongoing lack of a good night’s rest increases blood pressure, risk of heart disease and stroke, risk of Type 2 diabetes, and even decreases your body’s immune response. It is important to sleep well and if being grateful can help; it’s worth incorporating into your life.
- More Frequent Exercise– Although this may fall under the ‘chicken or the egg’ enigma, there are studies that actually found that individuals that practice a gratitude attitude tend to be more physically active and bask in all the health benefits it brings.
It would be irresponsible to promote gratitude as a health benefit without caution. Just like exercise, one can overdo it. The mental and physical benefits of incorporating gratitude into your life are real. Also real is becoming so grateful to the point of settling. This can be a slippery slope of becoming content and even too empathetic. For example, simply being thankful for having a job and becoming more concerned with others’ job statuses may cause additional, undesired stress. Balancing gratitude without suppressing your own motivation to achieve life improvements is the trick. Keep practicing a balanced attitude of gratitude and thanks for reading!