Today’s health conscious society is obsessed with finding the next cure-all for the ailments that people face.
Specialized diets, supplemental vitamins, new exercise programs and other ‘revolutionary’ ideas are all offered as the next-big thing in healthy living.
Studies have shown, however, that one of the most effective tools to improve both your physical and mental health is something that everyone has access to and is completely free.
The secret to improving health? Gratitude.
What is gratitude?
Webster defines gratitude as the state of being grateful or showing thankfulness. Simply put, gratitude is acknowledging that what other people do matters. It can be expressed as simply as saying, “thanks”, or be a mindset that affects your everyday living. The more you practice gratitude, the greater the effect it can have on your life.
Does gratitude matter?
Gratitude improves your physical health. According to a study done in 2012, grateful people reported that they have fewer aches and pains, are more likely to attend regular checkups with their doctor and take care of their health.
Gratitude improves self-esteem When people are focused on what they don’t have, it can lead to resentment – a leading cause of low self-esteem. When they focus on what they do have, however, it allows them to appreciate the accomplishments of others and prevents envy.
Gratitude improves connections A study of new relationships showed that saying ‘thank you’ to someone can make them more likely to want to establish a continuing relationship with you. This can open the door to new possibilities both personally and professionally.
Is there any scientific proof to the benefits of gratitude? We’re glad you asked.
A study done by two psychologists showed that having an attitude of gratitude can have a positive effect on a person’s mental outlook.
In the study, participants were asked to write weekly on specific topics over a period of 10 weeks. Group 1 was tasked with writing about things for which they were grateful that had happened during the week.
Group 2 wrote about things that aggravated them, while Group 3 wrote about anything that had affected them, with no emphasis on if it was negative or positive. At the end of the 10-week study, the participants in Group 1 were more optimistic about their lives, had fewer visits to doctors and reported that they exercised more than the other groups.
In another study, psychologists wanted to determine the effect of gratitude on people who were struggling with mental health. A research study of college students who were seeking mental health help revealed something amazing.
Baseline reporting before they began counseling revealed that they had a low level of mental health. Participants were divided into three groups.
The first group was to write letters of gratitude to another person every week for three weeks.
The second group was to journal their thoughts on negative experiences and the third group was to do no writing activity.
All three groups received counselling.
After both four- and twelve-week follow-up visits, members of the first group reported a significant improvement in their mental health.
Even more interesting, practicing gratitude seems to have an even greater impact than simply counselling alone.
Have you noticed a positive result when you’ve shown gratitude?