Studies show practicing gratitude has health benefits

Tips for practicing gratitude

Psychology professor and author Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., University of California at Davis, has been studying the effects of gratitude on physical health, psychological well-being and relationships for more than a decade.

Over the years, Emmons and his colleagues have studied more than 1,000 people ages 8 to 80. In this research, participants are asked to keep a daily “gratitude journal” for three weeks, making note of things for which they are grateful.

Practicing gratitude consistently can help manage stress, lower blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol, boost the immune system, strengthen your heart and provide more restful sleep. Studies have shown that gratitude also has psychological and social benefits, such as feeling more alert, joyful, optimistic, generous, compassionate, outgoing and forgiving. According to the research, grateful people tend to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet and make regular physical examinations a priority.

Tips for practicing gratitude

Keep a daily gratitude journal. Set aside a few minutes each day, maybe upon rising or before bedtime, to list three to five things for which you are grateful. Or just count your blessings on a regular basis, with or without paper.

Find a gratitude partner. Just as exercise is easier with a buddy, having someone with whom to share your gratitude list and discuss the effects of gratitude in your life can be a positive influence.

Use visual reminders. Sticky notes on the bathroom mirror, refrigerator or steering wheel can help you count your blessings. Think of other visual cues to help you remember; for example, name a blessing at each stop sign or red light.

Eliminate self-defeating thoughts. Practice replacing negative thoughts and critical self-talk with accurate thoughts that are hopeful and reasonable. Use your thoughts to help reduce stress, not intensify it.

Just say thanks. You can’t be negative and grateful at the same time. One emotion cancels the other out. They cannot coexist.

It’s far too easy to be a glass-half-empty kind of person instead of feeling blessed for all the things we have. Contentment is something we can learn, and it always starts with a joyful, prayerful, thankful heart.


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