You’re probably aware of the periodic reminders we receive about the importance of feeling and showing gratitude towards others’ acts of kindness and generosity. And, that it’s also good to feel grateful for whatever’s positive in your own life. But such reminders are often couched in a moral or religious framework: that it’s good to do. But realistically, you might think that it isn’t all that relevant to what’s really important in life – like making money, or acquiring status and power.
So consider this: A new study finds a direct link between expressing gratitude and increasing your physical and emotional well-being. Not just a moral exhortation, showing gratitude increases your overall health.
I’m not surprised to see empirical confirmation of what I’ve found – and have recommended – to people for many years. So often we’re caught up in a sense of self-importance regarding our own troubles, whether major or trivial. We can easily sink into victimhood while ignoring all that we have to be grateful for in our lives; all that is positive in our life circumstances, despite the “negatives” that we may dwell in. Or comparing ourselves with others whom we imagine to be better off, in some way.
In short, practicing an attitude of gratitude – really experiencing it – is a component of increasing resilience in the face of the fluid, ever-changing world we live in; and building greater psychological health.
This new study provides evidence of that. From the University of Montana and published in the Review of Communication, it examined the evidence of the connections between expressing gratitude and overall health. The authors find that gratitude – which stems from the actions of another and your response to them — is associated with psychological well-being and increased positive states such as life satisfaction, vitality, hope, and optimism. It also contributes to decreased levels of depression, anxiety, envy, and job-related stress and burnout. Moreover, people who experience and express gratitude have reported fewer symptoms of physical illness, more exercise, and better quality of sleep
The study’s authors, Stephen M. Yoshimura and Kassandra Berzins, suggest that “gratitude promotes social relationships by giving grateful people an appearance of warmth and responsiveness, increasing their trust in others, and motivating them to approach and bond with their benefactors.” Further, they point out that gratitude can help people find high-quality relationship partners and can lead to greater long-term relationship satisfaction because of the mutual support and caring it generates. And that, in turn, is an essential part of long-term psychological well-being.
The authors conclude, in a low-key way, “Social connectedness, perhaps through the increased willingness and ability to communicate gratitude, could serve as a recommendable health practice.”
No argument there!
A version of this article also appeared in Psychology Today