The Health Benefits of Gratitude

The health beneits of gratitude

How wonderful it is to have one day a year dedicated to gratitude and thankfulness! Many of us are well aware of the spiritual benefits of cultivating gratitude in our lives, but it turns out that these benefits can even extend to physical health!

Gratitude Reduces Stress

It is no secret that stress has a negative impact on health, but research is finding that an “attitude of gratitude” can be a successful antidote to external stressors. As this article points out:

Grateful people — those who perceive gratitude as a permanent trait rather than a temporary state of mind — have an edge on the not-so-grateful when it comes to health, according to Emmons’ research on gratitude. “Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular physical examinations”.

Cultivating an attitude of thankfulness has also been linked to better immune function, better ability to relax, and even decreased rates of disease.

The Paradox of Gratitude

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking “if only I had ___ I’d be happy,” or “If only I didn’t have to deal with ___ I’d be happy,” but this is a vicious cycle…

As Shawn Anchor points out in the TED talk, gratitude and happiness are the first step, not the end result. Making the choice to be happy and have gratitude is not only healthy, but it can improve our performance and ability as well.

Why is Negativity So Easy?

It sounds so simple to just be grateful, but it turns out that there are biological reasons this process doesn’t come so easily.

Sure, by all measures, if you are reading this on a computer, your living conditions are better than those in a large majority of the world. You probably got to eat today, likely even food you chose and enjoyed, and you probably have adequate clothing. We probably have friends, and a social support system, and family members we can talk to regularly.

Yet, it is easy to dwell on the financial problems, or the one negative comment on a blog post (*ahem*) or the one thing we wish we could fix about our bodies.

This makes sense from a biological standpoint, but makes gratitude difficult. We are wired to pay attention to pay attention to things that could be potentially negative or harmful as a survival instinct, but in a world of constant input from the internet and social media, this instinct can backfire.

Making Gratitude A Habit

Thankfully, (haha) cultivating a grateful attitude is possible, and it can be one of the easiest things you do for your health! As this article suggests, a few simple changes can help make gratitude a habit:

  • A Daily List– One thing I do daily is to make a list of a few things that I am especially grateful for that particular day. Whether little things like my garden or the dishwasher to big things like my children and wonderful husband, I’ve found that this does help to keep the focus on the many blessings in my life. When done first thing in the morning, this sets the tone for the day and helps me stay positive and cheerful.
  • Gratitude Letters– Once in a while, I try to write a letters to friends and family members thanking them for their influence in my life and detailing the reasons I am grateful for them.
  • Acts of Kindness– Doing a small, un-noticed, good deed each day can help boost the natural tendency to be grateful and look for the good in any situation.

As Martha Washington said:

I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.

So, if you are grateful for anything today, please share it below in the comments! Five things I’m very grateful for today are:

  1. My family
  2. My friends
  3. A good night’s sleep
  4. Access to healthy food
  5. You! I feel so blessed to get to “meet” all of the wonderful people who stop by and leave comments!

What are you are grateful for today? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. I actually made a list on my facebook for 25 things I am grateful for this month.  Today I am especially thankful for my MIL, my DH, my DD, God, foodstamps, and naps.

  2. 1. Salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (and grace – lots and lots of grace:)
    2. My family, esp. my dear husband and children
    3. Our home
    4. The abundance we have
    5. Health

  3. I feel like crap today, but am so grateful that I am pregnant!
    I am grateful for my family
    I an so grateful for all the blogs on  internet like this one, that inspire me
    to lead a healthier life, and gives me the receipe on how to do it!

  4. I am thankful for the air that we breathe, a home with running water, my wonderful husband and my 9 healthy children.

  5. I am thankful for health and the ability to help others with less than me.
    My children and family.
    For life and the joy of having freedom.

  6. I’m grateful for the joyful life I have, the wonderful people around me who encourage me, my dogs, my health and the great information I get from Katie. Every day I start my walk with the dogs and give thanks for all of the blessings that keep me well and happy. And, I try to spend a few minutes each day reading more, learning more and listening.
    On another note, my personal goal for each and every day is to make someone laugh–or at least get someone to smile. And I really work at that last one. It keeps me smiling, too.

  7. I am very grateful for the privilege of knowing the saviour. I am grateful for my wonderful husband and my two precious children. I am also grateful for the church community that I am a part of. Last but not least I am very grateful for Katie for her determination to help as many mom as possible to have a healthy family.

  8. Everyday in the morning and at night I thank God for:
    a) the day and the night
    b) my home
    c) my lovely daughter
    d) our health
    e) my job
    f) having water to take a shower
    g) the money to buy food
    h) my family

  9. I am grateful to be still working at age 67.
    I am grateful for my 2 children.
    I am grateful for knowing the Lord who is the head of my life.
    I am grateful for my ex helping me out with a place to stay.
    I am grateful for my at 85 who is still alive and in her right mind.
    I am grateful for my sisters and brothers.
    I am just grateful for being grateful.

  10. My beautiful family
    Good health for myself and my loved ones
    Somewhere safe to live
    Fresh water to drink
    Being content with my life

  11. Miss Katie! Have you ever read the book “One Thousand Gifts” by
    Ann Voskamp? It is such a beautiful book about God’s many, many gifts to us and the power of gratitude. It truly helped my whole perspective. Gratitude for the soap bubbles as I wash my dishes? Yes. She is also has a blog called a holy experience. Many blessings! —Rebekah

  12. Reminds me of a quote I read recently–
    “If you want to keep happy and healthy, try being an ‘inverse paranoid,’ An inverse paranoid is someone who thinks everyone is out to make him happy. Try it. It works. Just imagine everyone you meet is trying to bring happiness and joy to your life. And then try to do the same for them.”

  13. Today I am grateful

    1. that i woke up and is given a chance to experience another day
    2. for Maya who i know loves me unconditionally
    3. for Pebbles, my dog who makes me really happy and loves me unconditionally too
    4. for my family and friends who are always there for me
    5. for the good results of all my tests and for keeping me and everyone dear to me Healthy

    there’s really a lot to be grateful for..i am soo blessed that if i write everything it’ll probably become a “coffee table book”?

  14. I am grateful for your reminder to be grateful!!!
    Yes, the book “A Thousand Gifts” is a Godly reminder of all the things wonderful…big and small.

  15. I am grateful for the earth, the sky, and the oceans.
    I am grateful for my families and I’s health, happiness, and love.
    I am grateful for the shelter, food, water, and security my family and I have.
    I am grateful for my past, present, and future.
    I am grateful for the knowledge I hold, the love I emit, and the humblness I feel.
    I am grateful for the miracle of becoming and being a mother.
    I am so grateful!

  16. Amen. This is a hard one for me.

  17. I love this! I just started a 30 day gratitude challenge over on instagram (#TBLgratitudechallenge).

    Today I am grateful for family in town, sunshine, a sleeping baby, food in the cupboard and our home church. 🙂

    • I am grateful for the power of gratitude, this article, and especially all the amazing and inspiring comments I just got to read.

  18. I am grateful for an awesome Halloween night, my 2 amazing daughters and my sexy and very funny husband who I still love as much as i did when we were dating. God has blessed me and I thank him continually. I am also blessed to have read the post about the inverse paranoid…I’m going to try that every day. I love it!

  19. Sunshine
    Grandchildren
    Sisters
    Long commute
    Leptin resistance reset diet!

  20. I am grateful for my daughter, for our health, for our house and food, for my parents!

  21. As a practicing psychotherapist I normalize with clients our biological negativity bias. And that it takes consistent practice/training to make a habit of gratitude.

    I have made it a practice to note as I go through each day recognizing the abundant moments of grace that I am the recipient of every day. I am grateful for the run on trails in the beautiful western NC mountains I got to have this morning. That I made it safely from home to trail and back. That i had the most wonderful running companion, my little dog Zoey, who has enriched my life since I picked her up from a local shelter last Valentine’s day. I am grateful for relaxation time in a comfortable home, taking a warm shower, enjoying delicious coffee meal drink (with Vital Proteins gelatin in it!) I am grateful for being able to do the work I do that feels in line with what I am here to do. I am grateful for the connections i have with so many people. Also grateful for people like you, Katie, for taking the time and care in extending information you have learned to others like me.

  22. I’m thankful to God from whom all blessings flow: for my church, children, home, friendships, piano students, good food, health, and eternal life through Jesus Christ!

  23. I am grateful for my church, Hope City, my daughter, my parents, the fact that my daughter and I have a safe place to live, i am thankful for extra sleep!!!

    Thanks

  24. I am grateful for this crisp fall day and the fall season, for the abundant harvest in spite of the crazy weather and losing our cellar wall because of torrential rains last May, I am grateful for all the wonderful folks who helped us get back on our feet following the May deluge, for the craftsmen who charged us less then they could have for excellent work digging diversion ditches, hauling top soil and gravel, using their expensive toys to help with the manual labor, a now warm (lost the furnace and hot water heater) home and hot showers, for strength and energy in these retirement age bodies to keep slugging for 6 long months, a caring husband, good neighbors. But above and beyond all, my Savior and Lord Jesus for His presence, power and protection in our lives. What a great God we serve. Thank you Katie for the chance to express my thanks.

  25. I’m grateful for the fact that you always seem to be posting about exactly what I’m thinking! A true source of encouragement. It’s actually a little strange… Like you’re in my head. Love it! Thank you. I need to make gratitude lists a habit. I’ll list one more thing.

    I’m grateful that even though I have ptsd, there is hope for my peace of mind. Everyday is a new day and today I gained a new tool.

  26. Perfect timing to stumble upon this post! I was feeling pretty ungrateful, so good to be reminded before I hit the hay to relax and rejig my thoughts 🙂
    1. My husband and beautiful kids
    2. Tonight’s dinner
    3. Hubby generally cooks dinner
    4. Easy access to really good natural products
    5. Our awesome dog

  27. There are many things I am grateful for that I cannot even begin to list:
    My parents and their unending support and enthusiasm for life even at 80.
    My family that is always around to pick me up.
    My friends who make it all look so worthwhile.
    My faith in GOD that keeps me happy.
    A warm bed to sleep in and food on the table
    🙂

  28. You should check out the five minute journal. Its a similar idea but a little bit more in depth.

    • I’ve used it in the past and you’re right, it is a great tool!

  29. I am grateful for:
    1. My family
    2. God’s love
    3. Good health
    4. Roof over our heads
    5. My job

  30. I am grateful for family, especially that all 7 of our grandchildren are healthy!

  31. Gotta add more:
    That our kids are doing so well, with good jobs, great spouses, and are wonderful parents! And that I have wonderful parents! My mom is my best friend!
    And for a wonderful husband who has put up with a lot from me over 25 years but still loves me, and works hard so we can have all that we need, including healthy food, and has given me the opportunity to babysit grandkids!
    And that, as someone who is bipolar and always hated myself, that in 2012 at age 50, I finally realized that God loves me and I am really not so bad, and I was baptized. Thanks be to God!

  32. Unfortunately I had a hard time reading this. I lost my beloved husband on 10/28/15. He was only 52. We were dealing with some cancer issues. He had beat it for 6 years. We were dealing with main stream docs and an integrative doctor. The integrative doc was the best ever! She was caring, kind, knowledgeable, etc. The main stream docs were so rude and terrible to work with. It was just a mess. Either way, he died from an infection, not cancer, that could have been taken care of but the main stream wouldn’t do anything. Just a horrible time and we are now facing the holidays without him. I have nothing to be thankful for right now. This will be a very difficult holiday season. Mine and my kids lives have been ripped to shreds. I would like to tell everyone to give your loved ones an extra hug, kiss and let them know how much you love them. Life is so short and you don’t know when it will be your last hug and kiss.

    • Sara, I’m so sorry for your loss, that is devastating. Your story is a great reminder to always be grateful for what we have, as you never know when it could be taken away. You and your family will be in my prayers during the upcoming Holiday season.

  33. I am so grateful for:

    Being alive, my beautiful children, a happy marriage, being safe, having a home, having transportation, being able to access information to help my children, accepting myself, my families health, Angels put in place on earth to be a blessing to my family, life’s lessons.

  34. 1.I am grateful for life
    2.I am grateful for my mom and brothers
    3.I am grateful for the time I spent with my dad
    4.I am grateful for all of my family and my friends
    5.i am grateful for my job

  35. I am grateful for many different things.

    I’m grateful that me and my husband have our good health.
    I’m grateful we have running water, and can take a shower.
    I’m grateful we have heat, and hot water for hot showers.
    I’m grateful for air conditioning.
    I’m grateful that I found this blog.
    I’m grateful that me and my family have a roof over our heads, food and water, and protection from the elements.
    I’m grateful that I can eat healthy food.
    I’m grateful that I have a computer, and access to information.
    I’m grateful for online shopping sites like E-bay and Amazon.
    I’m grateful that I am able to buy e-books, and that I am able to read.
    I’m grateful for whatever education I was able to obtain in my lifetime.
    I’m grateful for Jesus dying on the cross for my sins to offer me eternal life.
    I’m grateful for my faith in Jesus.
    I’m grateful that I have been born into the Catholic Church and known Jesus my whole life.
    I’m grateful that I recently learned to read the bible.
    I’m grateful for a warm winter coat, hat, scarf, boots, and gloves.
    I’m grateful for so many things if I listed them all I would be here forever.
    Most of all, I am grateful that I have learned the power of gratitude, and able to reap its health benefits.

  36. I was going to list all of the things I’m grateful for today – including your recipe for tooth powder and finding your fascinating blog. Then I read the ‘comment policy’. Wow! I don’t know if you mean to put genuine people off but it does seem a tad controlling. Not use a nickname – only your ‘real’ name? I don’t happen to like my ‘real’ name and am always known by a nickname. As for my email address – it probably does sound a bit odd and could be construed as spammy, so my comment would doubtless be exterminated.
    So – this is no longer a comment to be posted, just a comment on your rather off-putting policy. Such a shame. Won’t be back, but then I doubt you’ll mind.

    • Hi Jerri,

      I’m sorry you feel that way. The comment policy is in place because of the amount of spam that was getting through and because I want the comments and interaction to be authentic. If someone doesn’t use a real email address then it’s very easy for them to start trolling. If they don’t use a real name, it’s much harder to have a conversation. Many people were only leaving comments so they could like back to their own site and try to selling something, without contributing to the post or conversation in a meaningful way whatsoever.

      I agree that it is unfortunate that I even need to have a comment policy, but because of more than a few bad apples online, it’s necessitated. Thanks for reading!