Over the last decade, it has been well-documented that gratitude contributes to psychological well-being. Being thankful can make people happier, improve their relationships, and even potentially counteract depression. Some recent studies also suggest that grateful people have fewer aches and pains, healthier hearts, and improved sleep. While the research on the relationship between gratitude and physical health is still developing, it’s strong enough to suggest that counting your blessings can have a positive impact.
Sleep is vital for good health. When you are sleep deprived, it puts strain on your body and increases your risk of developing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions. Although sleep doesn’t always come easy, studies suggest that boosting your gratitude might be an easy way to increase your sleep. Grateful people tend to fall asleep more quickly, stay asleep longer, and have better sleep quality.
Practicing gratitude exercises or keeping a gratitude journal not only feels good, but it might actually keep your heart healthy, too. One study found that people who feel appreciation have improved heart rate variability, an indicator of good heart health. In another study, women who kept a gratitude journal for two weeks had lower blood pressure than those who wrote about daily events. Gratitude may even help patients recover from a heart attack.
At the very least, it appears that more grateful people report feeling healthier and sleeping better, which may lead them to engage in other behaviors that keep them healthy. More research still needs to be done to determine whether or not particular gratitude activities can improve specific health outcomes, but evidence is mounting that gratitude may be one of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle.