The week of Thanksgiving is a time when many of us consciously set aside time to count our blessings and take stock of all the things in our lives that we can feel grateful for. But research shows that cultivating that sense of gratitude year-round can have major benefits for both our health and overall well-being.
Gratitude (noun): the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness
A feeling of gratitude has been linked to many health benefits, including:
1. Overall Physical Health
In one study of nearly 1,000 participants, researchers found that a sense of gratitude was correlated with better overall physical health. The study states: 'Grateful individuals experience better physical health, in part, because of their greater psychological health, propensity for health activities, and willingness to seek help for medical concerns."
2. Lower blood pressure
Counting blessings at least once a week significantly lowered blood pressure in one of the earliest studies on the effects of gratitude.
3. Lower stress
Individuals who feel more gratitude are more likely to have solid social support and lower levels of stress of depressive symptoms. It has also been found to improve family relationships (which can be important around the holidays!).
4. Better sleep
Just two weeks of consciously practicing gratitude helped improve sleep quality, lowered blood pressure, and created a sense of optimism.
5. Improved eating habits
People who kept a gratitude journal were shown to reduce their dietary fat intake by up to 25%.
6. Reduced depression symptoms
As it has been shown to reduce both stress and anxiety, it should be no surprise that gratitude also lowers symptoms of depression as well. In a study of nearly 3,000 individuals, researchers from BYU found gratitude results in fewer depressive symptoms.
7. Create an optimistic mindset
Simply writing down things to be grateful for increased optimism by 5-15%!
We wish you all a happy and healthy post-Thanksgiving season, and hope we can all work to cultivate a sense of gratitude throughout the year!
Dr. Nicole Cozean is the founder of PelvicSanity physical therapy, Orange County's premier pelvic floor physical therapy clinic. One of only 270 PTs to be board-certified in the pelvic floor, and the first PT to serve on the ICA Board of Directors, Nicole is the author of the acclaimed and best-selling book The Interstitial Cystitis Solution (2016). She is an adjunct professor at her alma mater, Chapman University. The PelvicSanity blog focuses on presenting practical, positive information to help patients beyond the walls of Nicole's clinic.