Thanksgiving is upon us, and it is time to think about all the things we are grateful for in our lives. Gratitude is a positive spiritual practice, of course. But did you also know that it is good for your mental, emotional, and even physical health?
An article published last Thanksgiving season in the New York Times states, “cultivating an 'attitude of gratitude' has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners.” Having a high level of gratitude has been correlated with diminished PTSD symptoms in college women with history of trauma; reducing anxiety and depression in patients with breast cancer; PTSD symptoms in teens following a major earthquake; sleep quality; and overall psychological well-being. In fact, a 2009 study in the UK of 201 individuals found that gratitude was “uniquely important to psychological well-being” even when controlling for personality type and traits.
Moreover, psychology research is showing more and more than gratitude seems to influence how we cope with stress. The physical ailments that can come from stress are well-documented: headaches, migraines, digestive upset, inflammatory conditions, vertigo and dizziness, back and neck pain, irregular or painful periods, cold sores, increased susceptibility to getting sick. Since cultivating a practice of gratitude can help us to be less stressed, it stands to reason that our physical bodies benefit immensely from gratitude, as well.
The current body of research also shows that gratitude can help reduce toxic emotions, improve self-esteem, enhance our ability to access positive memories, build social support, and motivate moral behavior. In short, gratitude makes us better people – to ourselves and to each other.