Gratefulness. Appreciation. Thankfulness. Acknowledgment. These simple sentiments are powerful tools that can help support both mental and physical health. After all, we have an entire day devoted to this very subject! Let’s see what science tells us about the health impacts of gratitude.
According to Greater Good Magazine published by Berkeley University, the practice of gratitude by giving daily thanks can help people feel happier and support overall mental health.1 In 2017 Berkeley conducted a study involving nearly 300 college students who were seeking mental health counseling at the university. The students were randomly assigned to three groups: counseling services only, counseling plus writing a gratitude letter to another person weekly, and counseling plus writing down negative thoughts and feelings. They found that the group that wrote the weekly gratitude letter reported significantly better mental health than the other two groups.
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America calls gratitude “a mental health game changer.”2
Gratitude and Self-Esteem
Research also shows there is a relationship between gratitude and self-esteem. For example, a 2015 study featuring 235 adults found that the people who were more grateful not only had better overall well-being, but they also had greater self-esteem.3
Gratitude and Heart Health
As it turns out, having a grateful attitude may also help support heart health. According to a 2023 review of 19 randomized controlled trials looking at gratitude interventions, the researchers found that gratitude not only supported mental health, but it also supported heart health as well.4
Giving Daily Thanks
While Thanksgiving is a great day to reflect and express appreciation, the key to maximizing the impact of gratitude is to make it a habit. According to Harvard Health Publishing, with consistent practice, this valuable mental health state grows stronger and can make you feel happier.5
Here are six different ways to infuse more gratitude into your daily life:
- Bookend your day by writing down (or thinking about) what you are grateful for in the morning and again before bed at night.
- Write a thank you note, say thank you, and/or thank someone mentally who has done something nice for you recently.
- Try mindfulness meditation to focus on the present moment as you think grateful thoughts before and after the meditation.
- Stop and smell the roses—really pay attention to the good things around you and take time to acknowledge even little glimpses of gratitude.
- Use visual reminders like post-it notes or visualizing people who help you feel more grateful.
- Use language by expressing yourself in a positive, grateful way—remember, words have power.
You may try to eat healthy, exercise consistently, and take your daily vitamins but you may be missing out on a simple, easy-to-use health-supporting tool. Consider adding a gratitude attitude to your daily health regimen. It will help support your overall well-being and happiness!
- Brown J, Wong J. How gratitude changes you and your brain. Greater Good Magazine. 2017;June 6. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain
- Smith AJ. Gratitude—a mental health game changer. Anxiety & Depression Association of America. 2021;Nov 8. https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/gratitude-mental-health-game-changer
- Lin C. Self-esteem mediates the relationship between dispositional gratitude and well-being. Personality and Individual Differences. 2015;85:145-148. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886915003086
- Wang X, Song C. The impact of gratitude interventions on patients with cardiovascular disease: a systematic review. Front Psychol. 2023;14:1243598. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10551131/?report=reader
- Harvard Health Publishing. Giving thanks can make you happier. Harvard Medical School. 2021;Aug 14. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier