Counting your blessings does more than just put you in a good mood.
According to several studies, practising gratitude can have real benefits for mental and physical health. From reducing stress to improving immune function, introducing some gratitude could be the key to a happier and healthier life.
Discover some of the scientifically proven benefits of gratitude, and different ways you can acknowledge the good things in your life each day.
Gratitude makes us happier
How would you like to boost your long-term happiness by 10%? Research shows that keeping a daily gratitude journal can do just that. By simply writing down three things that went well each day, you can consciously pay attention to the positives in life, which can make you feel more positive about your life overall.
This concept is backed by science. When a person expresses or receives gratitude, the brain releases dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. It contributes to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as part of the reward system.
But gratitude doesn’t just boost positive emotions – it can also reduce the negatives.
“Gratitude blocks toxic emotions such as envy, resentment, regret and depression, which can destroy our happiness,” says Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis and a leading scientific expert on the science of gratitude.
"A grateful mind will allow you to be less stressed and feel more positive emotions. Research suggests thinking of things you are grateful for has a positive impact on how you feel and behave,” explains licensed clinical psychologist and neurotherapist Catherine Jackson.
Gratitude makes us healthier
Apparently, grateful people are healthy people! Research shows those who practise gratitude experience fewer aches and pains, and report having better physical health than those who don’t.
A 2015 study found that gratitude and spiritual wellbeing are related to improved sleep quality, energy, self-efficacy, and lower cellular inflammation. Another study found that practising gratitude can lower blood pressure and improve immune function.
While research on the relationship between gratitude and physical health is still developing, existing studies show there is a connection. So whether it’s a placebo effect or not, practising gratitude could give you some physiological signs of better health.
How to Practise Gratitude
Keen to experience the benefits of gratitude for yourself? These are some of our favourite ways to practise gratitude each day. You can try one, all, or a combination of your favourites.
Keep a journal
Make a habit of writing down three things you’re grateful for at the end of each day. From seeing a cute dog to getting positive feedback from a colleague, they can be as small or big as you like. This is a great reminder than while every day may not be good, there is some good in every day.
Appreciate something someone did or said that had a positive impact on you? Make it known in person or via a letter or email. Studies show expressing gratitude can improve your relationships – both in your personal life and at work. Those who take time to show appreciation for their partner report feeling more positive toward the other person, and employees who receive recognition from their managers report feeling motivated to work harder.
Use mindfulness meditation to focus on the things you’re grateful for in the present moment. This could be the warmth of the sun, the pleasant sound of silence, or the strength of your body. If you’re looking for a new morning ritual to start the day in a positive mindset, this could be just what you need.
If you’d like to speak to a professional about how you can adopt a more positive mindset, our counsellors can help. Learn about our confidential counselling service and how to book an appointment here.
For more advice, check out our tips to silence your inner critic.