Gratitude: Good for Your Health
It’s the time of year when we gather with family and friends to give thanks—but did you know that gratitude has a powerful impact on health and well-being?
Gratitude and Your Brain
Practicing gratitude not only makes you happier, but it changes your brain’s neural activity. Using MRI technology, researchers found that gratitude lights up the brain’s reward pathways, and that the brain regions of stress relief and interpersonal bonding are activated when you feel gratitude.
In a National Health Institute study, participants who showed more gratitude also had a higher-functioning hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that manages stress, metabolism, and sleep.
Mental and Physical Health Benefits
A peer-reviewed study looked at the value of gratitude journaling. Participants were divided into three groups, with one group instructed to journal on gratitude, one group on their deepest thoughts and feelings, and one not to journal. After three months, the gratitude journaling group had significantly better mental health scores than the other two groups.
Another study on gratitude journaling divided participants into three groups, and had one group focus on the positive things they had experienced, one on the negative, and one on events that had affected them in any way, positive or negative. After 10 weeks, the gratitude group had a more positive view of life, exercised more, and had fewer visits to the doctor’s office than those who focused on the negatives.
Other benefits of gratitude that have been found in multiple studies include:
- Lower stress
- Reduced pain
- Improved immunity
- Balanced blood pressure
- Stronger heart function
As you’re giving thanks this season, you may be reaping benefits from practicing gratitude, and you may just make the practice a more regular one.
IONS. (2022, October 14). The untapped power of gratitude. https://noetic.org/blog/gratitude/
Howard, E. (2019, May 23). How gratitude changes your brain. https://noetic.org/blog/how-gratitude-changes-your-brain/