5 Science-Backed Reasons To Kick-Start (Or Restart) Your Gratitude Practice ASAP

Photo: Aaron Thomas

In between the delicious food, family time, and travel plans, it's important to remember what Thanksgiving is really about: Gratitude. While we may have the best of intentions, sometimes the original spirit and intention of this beautiful day slips out of focus. Only 20 percent of Americans rate gratitude as a positive, constructive emotion. For context, that number is nearly 50 percent in Europe.

Sharing your gratitude isn't simply a nice thing to do. Practicing gratitude is one of the simplest things you can do to transform your life, and there’s no better time to start than this Thanksgiving. In case you need some extra motivation, here's a rundown of five scientifically-proven benefits of practicing gratitude.

1. Practicing gratitude will make you happier than money or "stuff."

Because of a little phenomenon called the hedonic treadmill, focusing our attention on amplifying what we have will always have a greater impact on net happiness than pursuing more money or more material objects. For example, the act of using a gratitude journal each day for a month has been shown to have a 10 percent increase on subjective happiness. Believe it or not, that's the same amount as doubling your income.

2. Practicing gratitude makes us stronger emotionally.

Not only does gratitude improve our self-esteem and lower our risk of depression, it also improves our resilience and ability to deal with trauma. Additionally, it reduces toxic emotions like envy, resent, and regret.

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3. Practicing gratitude makes for a healthier body.

Gratitude heightens our immune system and white blood cells to fight disease and decreases stress hormones like cortisol by up to 23 percent. It also decreases blood pressure and heart rate variability. Can't get much better than that!

4. Practicing gratitude makes us better at our jobs.

Yes, practicing gratitude leads to a greater sense of professional success. A simple "thank you" from a supervisor gives people both a strong sense of self-worth and self-efficacy. The expression of gratitude has a spillover effect, too: Individuals become more trusting with each other and more likely to help each other out when they're grateful.

In a national survey, almost all respondents found that saying "thank you" to colleagues "made employees happier and more fulfilled," and a recent study at Wharton showed that pep talks and articulated gratitude for fundraising professionals led to 50 percent increases in productivity.

5. Practicing gratitude helps us sleep better.

Gratitude increases sleep quality, reduces the time required to fall asleep, and increases sleep duration. In one study of 65 subjects with a chronic pain condition, those who were assigned a daily gratitude journal to be completed at night reported half an hour more sleep than the control group. In another study of 400 healthy people, those participants who had higher scores on a gratitude test also reported significantly better sleep. They reported faster time to sleep, improved sleep quality, increased sleep duration, and less difficulty staying awake during the day.

The science is in, and we know what a positive impact it has on our overall well-being. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving is #GratiTuesday—a day when people around the country are invited to take a moment, think about the friends and family who have made their year great, and share some much-needed love and appreciation with them. If you want to join in, just ask yourself this simple question: "Who made my 2017 awesome?" and share a video. If you have anything nice to say, say it all.

Need help starting a gratitude practice? Here are some ideas.

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