With Thanksgiving Day just days away, our thoughts turn to things to be thankful for. It has occurred to me throughout this past year that some of the happiest people I know are also the ones that seem the most grateful. You know the people, I’m talking about – they don’t necessarily have the best of everything, but they make the best of everything they have. They don’t complain, they wake up happy, they make everyone around them feel good, they avoid conflict, contention and arguments, and they are always offering to help make your life better. Let’s call this person “Nina” (meaning gracious, kind, nice & friendly). I hope you all have a Nina in your life. It makes every single day you are living and breathing on this earth a blessing. When you think about these grateful, appreciative Ninas it seems that they are the ones living longer, healthier lives. And, it turns out they do.
Research has shown that gratitude makes you live longer. That’s because the more grateful you are for what you have, the happier you are. And the happier you are, the healthier you will be. I try to make it a habit to remind those that I love how thankful I am to have them in my life. This is a great time to reflect on how we can show gratitude not just this week, but every day that we have the opportunity to share with those we love how we feel. Let’s not just tell them, but show them just how much we care. Make time and make the effort. Life changes in a blink all too quickly.
How can gratitude help us live longer?
Gratitude improves physical health
The numbers are in and the facts are clear. Research shows that grateful people are healthier. People who display gratitude have:
16% fewer physical symptoms
10% less physical pain
25% increased sleep quality
Gratitude improves psychological health
Expressing thanks diminishes various harmful emotions, such as envy, resentment, frustration, and regret. Dr. Robert A. Emmons, a prominent gratitude researcher from the University of California, Davis, asserts that gratitude amplifies joy and lessens feelings of depression.
Gratitude improves self-esteem
An individual who practices gratitude tends to readily acknowledge and accept kindness from others. They perceive acts of kindness at face value, believing themselves worthy of receiving such gestures. Conversely, someone with low self-esteem often views kindness skeptically, assuming hidden motives behind the gesture and suspecting that the benefactor seeks something in return.
Gratitude increases mental resilience
Studies indicate that gratitude serves not just to alleviate stress but also as a significant factor in recovering from trauma. A 2003 research publication in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that gratitude significantly contributed to resilience after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Acknowledging aspects to be thankful for even during the most challenging moments increases the likelihood of possessing the resilience needed to rebound from adversity.
Gratitude makes you more likely to exercise
Improved well-being, characterized by reduced pain and increased restfulness, tends to correlate with a higher inclination to engage in physical activity. Individuals who practice gratitude frequently engage in exercise and are more inclined to attend routine check-ups, both of which are contributing factors to a longer life expectancy.
Gratitude makes you into a nicer person
Expressing gratitude and displaying appreciation for favors performed contributes to developing a more pleasant disposition. However, the advantages extend beyond mere words. Demonstrating gratitude not only aids in winning new acquaintances but also fosters the likelihood of building ongoing relationships, as per a 2014 study in Emotion. For instance, sending a thank-you note to a therapist who checked on you post a demanding OT session could potentially initiate a new friendship. By embracing trust, sociability, and appreciation, individuals can enhance existing relationships and forge new connections.
How can we nurture and develop this compelling characteristic of gratitude?
The easy key to cultivating gratitude
An increasing number of individuals have adopted the practice of maintaining a brief daily gratitude journal, allocating just five minutes to jot down thankful thoughts before bedtime. Engaging in this practice helps in strengthening one's capacity for gratitude, yielding additional advantages. Those who keep a gratitude journal tend to experience improved and extended sleep patterns. Moreover, in an 11-week study involving 96 Americans, participants instructed to maintain a weekly gratitude journal exercised an additional 40 minutes per week compared to the control group.
Gratitude serves as a catalyst for various positive effects, diminishing feelings of envy, enhancing the quality of memories, enabling the experience of positive emotions, and aiding in resilience during stressful situations. Thus, eliminating negativity and embracing gratitude becomes crucial, given its potential to extend one's lifespan.
Beginning today, let’s all strive to embody our inner Nina.