The science-backed benefits of gratitude.Around this time of the year, we begin to ruminate on things we’re grateful for. After all, giving thanks is a hallmark of the holiday season. It’s a time we’re surrounded by friends, family, and good cheer. (Also, pie.) As a result, the festivities ground us and slow down our busy lives for a moment to take stock of what’s truly important—and the things we have to be grateful for.
In the spirit of the season, we found five science-backed reasons why practicing gratitude in your daily life can improve both your happiness and health.
Practice Gratitude For: Happiness
Being grateful has a dramatic impact on your happiness. One study found that participants who wrote in a gratitude journal experienced a 10% increase in well-being and happiness. And being happy isn’t only great for feeling good; it also boosts your motivation and creativity. Furthermore, it improves your productivity. (That’s four benefits for the price of one!)
Practice Gratitude For: Stronger Relationships
Expressing gratitude helps build a bond of trust and deepens emotional relationships. (The simple act of being grateful improves marriages, according to one study.) Gratitude helps you connect better and forge stronger relationships. And this doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships; you can nourish all of your relationships with gratitude.
Practice Gratitude For: Better Sleep
Trouble sleeping? Try cultivating some gratitude. Studies have shown that gratitude helps quiet your mind, reduces anxiety, and promotes better sleep. (One study found that gratitude improves sleep quality by 25%, and another indicated that it helped participants fall asleep faster.)
Some easy ways to cultivate gratitude: keep a gratitude journal, give a genuine compliment, or find a positive when you have a negative thought about a situation.
Practice Gratitude For: Increased Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is the way you think about yourself. Having low self-esteem can trigger anxiety and fear and lead to self-sabotaging behaviors. On the other hand, thinking about yourself in a positive way improves your confidence, helps you be successful, and can reduce stress in social situations. An amazing benefit of gratitude is that it increases self-esteem. One study looked at athletes and their coaches: After six months, the athletes with higher gratitude levels experienced an increase in their self-esteem.
Practice Gratitude For: Stress Reduction
There are plenty of external stressors around us (work, the 2016 election, etc.), and being grateful can actually help you cope with those stressors better. Being grateful triggers a positive attitude. It acts as an antidote to stress because it puts you in a positive mindset. De-stressing is a natural result from experiencing the benefits of gratitude.
Bonus: A 2015 study showed that being grateful can improve your physical health— notably your heart health—because it decreases stress.