In a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people reported that they feel physically healthier, tend to exercise more, take better care of their health, and are more likely to have regular check-ups with the doctor. These results of expressing gratitude cause an increase in energy levels due to the associated vitality. And higher energy levels, presumably, have a positively impact on the longevity of life for those who are grateful.
Gratitude is good for your heart. For example, a 2015 study found that patients who kept a gratitude journal for 8 weeks showed reductions in circulating levels of several important inflammatory biomarkers, as well as an increase in heart rate, which reduces the risk of a heart attack. In other words, less inflammation and healthier heart rhythms mean better heart health.
It is interesting to note that gratitude was found to lower the risk of having another heart attack for patients who became more appreciative of life after having a heart attack. According to Dr. Robert A. Emmons, “Gratitude works because, as a way of perceiving and interpreting life, it recruits other positive emotions that have direct physical benefits, most likely through the immune system or endocrine system.” Researchers at the universities of Utah and Kentucky observed that optimistic, but stressed out law students had more disease-fighting cells in their bodies.
Also, stress hormones like cortisol are 23% lower in grateful people and a daily gratitude practice can reduce the effects of aging to the brain. Sleep quality is better due to gratitude. In fact, a 2009 study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that participants who wrote down a list of things they were grateful for before going to bed, more often slept better than those who didn’t.
Another study in 2011 published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well Being confirmed that writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep and causes you to sleep longer. In addition, gratitude has been found to reduce the time required to fall asleep. This means that gratitude can help fight insomnia. Dr. Emmons indicates that gratitude can lower blood pressure. This is vital to the prevention of other physical symptoms.
Lowering your blood pressure to an acceptable level-120/80 can reduce the risk of stroke, which happens when a blood vessel to the brain bursts or becomes blocked by a clot. High blood pressure can 1) strain the optic nerve and 2) lead to hypertensive retinopathy. Both conditions can dramatically reduce eyesight. As high blood pressure can damage the kidneys and result in kidney failure, lowering blood pressure can boost kidney health. Gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression.
Being grateful enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Gratitude also reduces stress, improves self-esteem and fosters resilience. All of these benefits of better psychological health are due to expressing gratitude in one’s life. Keeping a gratitude journal has been found to lower the amount of physical pain felt by participants of a study on counting blessings vs. Dr. Emmons expressed this benefit by various study participants as being “less bothered by aches and pains”. Either way, gratitude has a positive effect on the mind and body in general, so the rewards are many, including less pain.