It’s kind of amazing how many health and life-related benefits have been associated with the practice of gratitude, but just what does the research say and where does the most support lie? As I found in a review of this topic, there is already a wealth of content highlighting researched-backed insights to the practice of gratitude.
As this article from Harvard Health detailed, simply writing out things one is grateful for could lead to a greater sense of optimism and overall positive feeling about life. Furthermore, when assessing happiness on an index, those who take the time to thank someone tend to score higher.
Other studies have compared measures related to the practice of gratitude to health outcomes, such as self-care and physical health, sleep, and psychological well-being. This Forbes article did a nice job synthesizing these benefits. (Note, it also appeared in Psychology Today).
Another emerging area is the impact on brain activity. Brain health is one of the most popular topics in health and wellness right now so the findings thus far are quite intriguing.
This Greater Good Magazine article, which is published by UC Berkeley, focused on the mental health benefits of practicing gratitude and, also, detailed an experiment where brain activity was measured while participants completed a “pay it forward” task. The study accounted for other self-reported measures of behavior and motivations associated with gratitude. In a nutshell, the researchers observed that people who were generally more grateful and participated in the task showed greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with learning and decision making.
The field of Positive Psychology is more or less the master at monitoring facets such as the practice of gratitude with respect to other health and well-being outcomes.
In 2019, PositivePyschology.com broke it down (link here). To briefly synthesize, appreciation was considered to be a key trait to gratitude, but, as they detailed, can also be expressed through other distinct aspects. Expressions of gratitude have been associated with well-being, relationships, and health. Furthermore, these associations can be influential in feelings of happiness, love, and life satisfaction.
Finally, Happier Human, a leading source focused on tips and resources to support a happy life, gave us 31 science-backed benefits of gratitude in this blog post! It broke down benefits across the areas of emotional, personality, social, career, and health.
So to recap, the most compelling reasons to practice gratitude are:
- Level of happiness
- Benefits to health
- Quality of life
Whichever way you look at it, practicing thanks and, perhaps, a little generosity as well may be excellent options for your overall health and well-being.