A Little Dose of Gratitude Goes a Long Way

by Rachel Stewart

So much of being and staying healthy is directly tied to tangible concepts, such as walking 10,000 steps or drinking eight glasses of water a day. This means that more subtle advice may get lost in the shuffle of day-to-day living. Everyone has moments of being agitated or unhappy, but studies are continuing to dig deeper to better understand how having a positive outlook on life can actually have a deeper impact on one’s overall health. 

A Journal of Positive Psychology study conducted by a team of Portland State University researchers and a Clemson University professor found that when people act positively toward their colleagues that both their physical and mental health improves. These findings build on other studies that have tried to pinpoint how being grateful can make people happier and healthier. Not sold on the power of positive thinking? Here are four ways that gratitude could help you, too.

1. Have fewer aches and pains. A 2003 study found that people who wrote their gratitude down in a journal felt less pain than their counterparts. These journalers were also more physically active, which helps keep pain at bay.  Try keeping track on your own time and see if you notice a difference. Thank your barista for your morning cup of coffee after a walk, or send a thank you note to someone who recently helped you through a trying time. 

2. Get better Zzzzs. Having trouble falling asleep? Numerous studies have found those that take time to give thanks for all they have experience a better night’s sleep, and fall asleep faster to boot. What better way to wind down than meditate on what went well and how you might tackle the next day’s challenges? It beats counting sheep. 

3. Build stronger relationships. Saying thank you isn’t just good manners – it’s a form of positive communication that has a ripple effect on all those in your life. You never know whose day you might make with a kind word or smile – or who might return the favor when you need a pick me up, too. Go the extra mile, whether you’re wrapping up a quick phone call or sending a text to a loved one.

4. Bring the (blood) pressure down. Life is full of stressors, and it’s easy to act out in anger. A 2016 study found that women who practiced gratitude for two weeks were able to lower their blood pressure. No time to write down your feelings? Take five minutes to pray or meditate on things you’re thankful for right now. 

What’s your favorite way to express your gratitude to a loved one? Tell us at editor@outreachnc.com.