by Lisa Stockdale
"We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses."
-Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden
The holidays are upon us and we kick them off with Thanksgiving which began as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year.
Did you know that practicing an “attitude of gratitude” daily has the ability to improve your overall quality of life?
It’s true! Researchers from Harvard Medical School to the Mayo Clinic and beyond all agree that practicing gratitude will significantly increase your well-being – including improved physical, mental and emotional health.
Here are five ways gratitude can positively impact your life, according to the research:
1. Improved Sleep
A 2009 study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that grateful people (those who express gratitude) sleep longer and better than those who do not practice gratitude. Simply writing down a list of a few things to be grateful for before bedtime has been shown to improve quality of sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.
2. Improved Physical Health
Grateful people report fewer aches and pains, exercise more regularly and attend regular medical check-ups more often than ungrateful people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Amit Sood, M.D. from the Mayo Clinic reports that practicing gratitude boosts immunity and decreases the risk of disease.
3. Increased Empathy and Decreased Aggression
“Gratitude motivates people to express sensitivity and concern for others,” researchers wrote in a 2012 paper in Social Psychology and Personality Science. Gratitude was attributed to an increase in empathy and a decrease in aggression. A 2012 study by the University of Kentucky demonstrated that people who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others.
4. Increased Happiness and Decreased Depression
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has concluded that gratitude reduces an array of toxic emotions like envy, resentment and frustration which works to improve overall psychological health. For example, grateful people are less likely to become resentful of others and more likely to show appreciation for other people’s accomplishments. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology linked gratitude to improved self-esteem.
5. Increased Resilience
Numerous studies, including a 2006 study in Behaviour Research and Therapy, found that Vietnam War veterans with high levels of gratitude were less likely to be impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder. Generally speaking, research has demonstrated that gratitude reduces stress and improves one’s ability to overcome trauma.