Over the past 15 years, hundreds of studies have documented the social, physical, and psychological benefits of gratitude. The research suggests these benefits are available to most anyone who practices gratitude, even in the midst of adversity, such as elderly people confronting death, women with breast cancer, and people coping with a chronic muscular disease. Here are some of the top research-based reasons for practicing gratitude.
•Gratitude brings us happiness: Through research by Robert Emmons, happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, and many other scientists, practicing gratitude has proven to be one of the most reliable methods for increasing happiness and life satisfaction; it also boosts feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm, and other positive emotions.
•On the flip side, gratitude also reduces anxiety and depression and could be a helpful part of therapy. Research suggests it may help reduce depression among people with chronic disease.
•Gratitude is good for our bodies: Studies by Emmons and his colleague Michael McCullough suggest gratitude strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness, and makes us less bothered by aches and pains. It also encourages us to exercise more and take better care of our health.
•Grateful people sleep better: They get more hours of sleep each night, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more refreshed upon awakening. If you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep.
•Gratitude makes us more resilient: It has been found to help people recover from traumatic events, including Vietnam War veterans with PTSD, victims of natural disasters, and people living under violent, political conflict.
•Gratitude strengthens relationships: It makes us feel closer and more committed to friends and romantic partners. When partners feel and express gratitude for each other, they each become more satisfied with their relationship. Gratitude may also encourage a more equitable division of labor between partners.
•Gratitude promotes forgiveness—even between ex-spouses after a divorce.
•Gratitude makes us “pay it forward”: Grateful people are more helpful, altruistic, and compassionate—in other words, more prosocial.
•Gratitude is good for kids: Children as young as six or seven are more generous when they’re feeling grateful, and grateful adolescents tend to be more resilient. When 10-19 year olds practice gratitude, they report greater life satisfaction and more positive emotion, and they feel more connected to their community.
•Gratitude is good for schools: Studies suggest it makes students feel better about their school; it also makes teachers feel more satisfied and accomplished, and less emotionally exhausted, possibly reducing teacher burnout.