5 science-backed benefits of gratitude for your physical health, relationships, self-esteem, and more
Gratitudebenefits your physical health, capacity for empathy, interpersonal relationships, happiness, and self-esteem.
- Practicing gratitude can help you focus more on the good things in your life, boosting happiness and decreasing feelings of hopelessness and depression.
Practicing gratitude means noticing and appreciating the good things around you. It sounds simple, but feeling gratitude and expressing it to others can have enormous benefits for your health and well-being.
In fact, research shows that gratitude affects many areas of your life, including your physical health, your relationships, and your self-esteem. Here are five health benefits of practicing gratitude.
1. Gratitude may improve physical health
Gratitude can improve your health by encouraging you to take care of your body and keeping up healthy habits.
For example, gratitude may help you sleep better. A 2009 study found that people who practiced grateful thoughts before bed fell asleep faster, slept longer, and felt less tired during the day. This may be because practicing gratitude can help calm you down and even lower your heart rate.
Getting more sleep can help boost your immune system, reduce stress, and lower your risk of heart disease - and incorporating a calming routine before bed that includes practicing gratitude might help you sleep better.
Another benefit of gratitude is better blood sugar control, which can lower your risk for diabetes. A 2017 study found that people who reported feeling more grateful in their lives had lower blood levels of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), an important measure of how well your blood sugar is controlled.
2. Gratitude enhances empathy
Feeling grateful can also help you be more empathetic toward others, possibly because you view other people more positively.
A 2020 study found that medical students who felt more gratitude also had stronger feelings of empathy for other people. The researchers believe this is because when you regularly notice how other people have been good to you, you are more likely to help others.
Empathy can help you connect more deeply to other people and is a crucial part of maintaining healthy relationships. Having healthy relationships in your life has been linked to fewer mental health problems.
3. Gratitude improves relationships
"Gratitude serves to both remind us of our partner's positive qualities and the benefits of that relationship, as well as bind us more closely with our partner," says Meredith A. Pung, PhD, a clinical research coordinator at the University of California, San Diego who specializes in the science of gratitude.
Research shows that expressing gratitude to people close to you is linked to many benefits:
- People who express grateful feelings toward their partner are more likely to view them in a positive light.
- Couples who express appreciation for each other feel more committed and are more likely to stay in the relationship.
- People who express more gratitude to a friend or partner are also more willing to express concerns about the relationship, which can lead to important conversations that improve your bond.
Showing gratitude can also help start a new friendship. "Expressing gratitude to individuals that you don't know very well is associated with an openness to get to know someone better or spend more time with them," Pung says.
4. Gratitude makes you happier
Practicing gratitude can make you happier, in part because you start to notice more of the good things in your life, Pung says.
"Practicing gratitude may promote happiness by broadening what we become attuned to in our environment, as opposed to the laser-like focus we tend to have toward the negative," Pung says.
Gratitude may also increase happiness because it helps to drive out negative emotions. A 2012 study found that people who felt more thankful had fewer symptoms of depression like crying, feeling hopeless, or sleeping badly.
5. Gratitude increases self-esteem
Research shows that people who are more grateful also tend to have higher self-esteem. This may be because when you intentionally notice the ways other people are good to you, you develop a stronger sense of your own value.
Gratitude can also help change the way you judge yourself - people who feel more gratitude are less likely to compare themselves to other people.
Building up your self-esteem is important, as low self-esteem is linked to depression, anxiety, and difficulty in relationships.
It's worth the effort to practice gratitude by focusing on and appreciating the good in the world, Pung says.
Practicing gratitude can improve your health, your happiness, and your relationships with other people, along with many other benefits.
"Keep coming back to an attitude of gratitude as many times as it takes," Pung says.
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