The Links Between Gratitude and Health

By Dr. Alex Power, General Practitioner

Gratitude - Simcoe Place Health ClinicThis time of year, we are often reminded of the things we have to be grateful for. The word gratitude comes from the latin word “gratus” meaning pleasing, agreeable, thankful. In general terms, it is the appreciation of what is important to one’s self.

Many researchers have looked at the link between gratitude and happiness. As one example, researchers Emmons and McCullough, based out of California, examined gratitude and its effects on well being. They had participants split into three groups: one group journaled about events that had displeased them during the previous week, a second group journaled about events that they were grateful for that had occurred in the last week and the third was asked to journal simply about the week’s events (neutral). Across the various study conditions, the gratitude subsample consistently evidenced higher well being in comparison with the other two study groups.

These results have been replicated by others in a variety of other research situations and have consistently shown that tasks related to being grateful (focusing on positive life events, experiences) result in higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction. On an interpersonal level, researchers have shown that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship. This can extend to the work environment as well. It was shown by Grant and Gino that managers who remember to say “thank you” to people who work for them may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder.

So how do we integrate feeling grateful into our lives? Something that has such positive effects should be hard and time consuming right? Well it doesn’t have to be.

Here are some ideas:

Write a thank-you note. Take the time to write a quick note, email, text to tell someone how you appreciate them and their impact on your life. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude note a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.

Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or tell a loved one about the gifts you’ve received each day.

Count your blessings. Choose a time each week to write down three things you are grateful for.

Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).

Want to learn more about gratitude and mental health? Our team of health care professionals, including our psychologist Dr. Jillian Satin can help. Book your next appointment here.

*For more on the links between gratitude and health, check out this studies:

Emmons RA, et al. “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology(Feb. 2003): Vol. 84, No. 2, pp. 377–89.

Grant AM, Gino E. “A little thanks goes a long way: Explaining why gratitude expression motivate prosocial behavior” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Jun 2010): Vol.98, No. 6, pp946-55.

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