5 Ways Gratitude Can Improve Your Life
For Thanksgiving, we gather to give thanks for family, health, friends, and more. It can be so much more than a few heartfelt words uttered around the table, however. An attitude of gratitude has numerous benefits.
Some of those perks include:
Better Addiction Recovery
Gratitude can help reduce stress and help a person overcome trauma. The link between mental illness and addiction has been established. (Addiction is actually a form of mental illness.) Trauma (including post-traumatic stress disorder) has also been connected to substance use disorders.
While gratitude itself is no cure for addiction, it can be helpful. Being grateful, and being present are key components of addiction recovery. Many 12-step programs incorporate gratitude, including paying things forward.
A person with an alcohol use disorder who practices abstinence and works on remaining grateful has a mindset that appears more effective for longer-lasting sobriety. (A person who continued to drink, however, experienced little effect from practicing gratitude.)
A positive attitude has also been found to help improve quality of life. Adopting new coping mechanisms can be helpful for someone’s recovery journey. It also might keep them more present and focused on recovery.
Simply taking time to acknowledge what’s good in your life can make you feel more connected. That connection can be to a higher power or to other people. In one study, people had to keep a diary. One group focused on what they were grateful for. Another documented what annoyed them. A third group took a more neutral approach, simply reporting what happened, free of judgment.
The positive group ended up feeling more optimistic about their lives.
There’s the saying you’ll catch more flies with sugar. The same goes for making friends. Saying thank you to others can make them appreciate you more in turn. That can become the building blocks for future friendships.
Better Physical Health
Studies have found people who feel grateful also feel fewer aches and pains. It’s not quite clear if gratitude causes improved health, or if good health leads to gratitude. (It could be something else entirely, too.)
In some studies, people who kept a gratitude journal said they experienced fewer headaches and stomach aches, and felt better overall. (Other studies have found no difference, so it’s not a home run that gratitude will ease everyone’s pains.)
Still, it couldn’t hurt to keep a gratitude journal. Some researchers believe that the longer a person practices being grateful, the more their worldview changes for the better.
Sleep is important for good overall health. Without adequate sleep, a person is at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity, and other issues.
One study found people with heart failure or chronic pain who also felt grateful reported sleeping better than less grateful patients. Other studies looked at people with sleep problems and found thankfulness helped them:
- Fall asleep faster
- Sleep longer
- Sleep better
- Remain more alert during waking hours
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – PTSD and Addiction
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Gratitude, Abstinence, and Alcohol Use Disorders: Report of a Preliminary Finding
tandfonline.com – Does gratitude promote recovery from substance misuse?
health.harvard.edu – Giving thanks can make you happier
forbes.com – 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round
greatergood.berkeley.edu – Is Gratitude Good for Your Health?