If you’re feeling a little sad, having trouble sleeping or dealing with stress, two little words can make a big difference: “Thank you.” Whether you say it by writing a list of what you’re grateful for or shouting it from the rooftops, this little phrase can have a powerful impact.
While some people wait for the holidays to express thanks, counting your blessings shouldn’t only be an annual affair. Gratitude can be expressed all year long, and doing so can have some major health benefits. Here are five ways your health can improve from developing gratitude.
Cultivating a feeling of gratitude in your life can have wide-reaching effects on your physical health. Gratitude can protect your heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and it is also associated with a healthy heart rate and lower inflammation. Expressing your gratitude can also help keep your brain healthy as you age.
Taking stock of the things you are grateful for can help improve your mental health. One study found that people who wrote down things they were thankful for reported better mental health than those who wrote down their thoughts and feelings instead. Along with other methods of mental health care like psychotherapy or medication, expressing gratitude could be an important treatment component.
“Finding reasons to be grateful can help people fight symptoms of depression, especially if you make gratitude a regular part of your life,” says Amy Doan, administrator at Smith Ranch Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “It can help you feel more optimistic and push away negative thoughts.”
People who are grateful may get a better night’s sleep due to their positive attitude. Thinking about the things you are thankful for at night makes it easier to sleep than dwelling on stressful thoughts. In fact, one study found that these positive thoughts helped people to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer each night.
Gratitude is associated with being happier in your life, but feeling thankful isn’t the only thing that will make you feel happier. Researchers have found that the benefit is even better if you actually express your gratitude to others. Keeping a gratitude journal will lead to increased happiness, but the happiness will be even more lasting if you show people you appreciate what they do for you.
Gratitude can help you reduce your stress, though feeling grateful in the midst of stress may be easier said than done. Be proactive and make a conscious effort to keep track of what you are grateful for, and it may help you remember the positive things in your life when the stressful moments come.
Saying “thank you” is polite and makes others feel good, but it is also important to your own well-being. Take stock of the things that improve your life and don’t forget to show your gratitude. It will help you feel happiness in the moment and can offer long-term benefits as well.
A version of this article was published by OC Register. It has been republished here with permission.