Opinion: Is there a connection between gratitude and well-being?

Posted online

Can something as simple as gratitude improve your health?

Numerous studies have shown that adding a gratitude activity to your daily routine for a mere 15 minutes a day can rewire your brain to positively impact your well-being. Simply put, gratitude is the practice of being thankful. Grateful people look for the good in people, the workplace and their surroundings. They express appreciation for what they discover.

If you focus on the things you value in life and convey your gratefulness for them, your body, mind and soul will thank you.

Taking several grateful moments each day helps me overcome obstacles, maintain a positive outlook, and be a happier person.

Before discounting the impact of gratitude, read the results of studies and see how you can easily add gratefulness to your daily routine.

A study of 186 patients found that writing three things they are thankful for in a daily journal resulted in better sleep, less depression and greater self-confidence in their ability to care for themselves, according to results published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine. They also experienced less fatigue and less systemic inflammation – a condition that leads to serious illnesses.

Researchers found a direct correlation between gratitude and sleep quality and duration when they studied 400 men and women, according to a study in the National Library of Medicine. Also, they found those who focused on grateful thoughts experienced less sleep latency and daytime dysfunction. Why? Listing things you are thankful for at bedtime results in less negative and more positive thinking. It’s hard to focus on the negative and positive simultaneously.

Another study asked participants to keep an online gratitude journal for two weeks. The outcome? Reduced stomachaches, fewer headaches, clearer skin and decreased congestion.

Gratitude increases the dopamine in our brain, triggering a “feels good, give me more” reaction. The more often you turn toward grateful thoughts, the easier it becomes, and the benefits of gratitude occur more frequently.

A grateful outlook may improve heart health. Several studies show that journaling three grateful thoughts each evening can lower blood pressure and improve heart rate. Additional studies indicate that gratitude impacts the health of those with asymptomatic heart failure and those recovering from a heart attack.

Cultivating a grateful lifestyle improves resilience, psychologically and physiologically. Gratitude helps you bounce back from stressful experiences more quickly. It improves coping skills when life takes a downward turn. Instead of absorbing ourselves with worry and fear, we draw on our gratitude reservoirs to pull us up. Several studies reveal that cultivating feelings of appreciation reduces stress. One study found a 23% reduction in the stress hormone cortisol.

Are you considering adding more gratitude to your day? Here are more grateful moment ideas:

• Send a Facebook or Instagram message, a Tweet or a text to someone expressing your appreciation.

• Write a complimentary message to a new LinkedIn friend about their post.

• Call someone and talk about the things you both enjoy.

• Take a walk and note the wonders of nature, the crisp fall air and the sounds around you.

• Send someone a handwritten card or letter expressing your appreciation.

• Play with a pet, your own or a friend’s.

Expressing gratitude cultivates feelings and positive actions that take you beyond your situations. By adding gratitude to your daily life, you can adjust your outlook on life, improve your health and live a longer, happier life.

However, gratitude is not a one-and-done activity. It takes practice. Think of it as a muscle in your body. Strong muscles develop over time. What happens if you stop using a muscle? It weakens and deteriorates. The same thing happens with gratitude.

What do you have to lose?

Why not commit to including a grateful moment every day from now until New Year’s Eve. Your holidays will be happier – and it’s highly likely that your health will improve.

LaDonna Greiner is the author of the “21 Reasons to Say Thank You” series, a photographer and a motivational speaker with a focus on gratitude. She serves as national immediate past chair of the Association of Women in Communication. She can be reached at ladonna.g@21reasons.life.