29 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude You Don’t Want to Miss
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you know we’re big on Positive Psychology—the study of happiness, well-being, and flourishing.
One thing we often talk about is the fact that positive emotions are powerful. They improve our health, help us live longer, boost productivity, improve relationships, enhance resiliency, and so much more.
Gratitude is perhaps the best researched emotion out there, and it might just be the most powerful one as well.
In this article, we’ll discuss the 29 science-backed benefits of gratitude. Once you see how beneficial being grateful is, you can then move on to practicing the eight gratitude exercises outlined in another of our articles.
I am personally so convinced of gratitude that I do five to ten minutes of practice every single day. Sure, I can’t keep this up forever, but right now it’s working very well!
Without further ado, here are 29 science-backed benefits of gratitude divided into five groups: emotional, health-related, social, professional, and personality benefits.
Gratitude Improves Your Emotional Life
Being grateful has been shown to create many emotional benefits. Specifically, gratitude can…
- Make us happier. Gratitude makes us feel good when we experience it. In addition, it helps us notice what is already good in our lives instead of what is bad, which helps us develop positive feelings about ourselves and our life. Research by Robert Emmons and his colleagues has found that gratitude can permanently raise our level of happiness past its genetically determined set-point.
- Reduce symptoms of depression. Depressed individuals are known to be overly self-focused (This is not through any fault of their own. And it doesn’t mean they are not compassionate or empathetic. Neither does it mean that they are selfish or self-possessed or anything like that. But they are too focused on their own shortcomings, flaws, etc.). By practicing gratitude, attention is directed away from one’s self and toward others and what they are providing for us.
- Increase our resilience. Resilience is our ability to bounce back and recover quickly from setbacks or stressful situations. Grateful people are able to see the bigger picture and remember the positive in their lives, and they seek out more social support. As a result, they are less likely to let bad events pull them into a downward spiral and more likely to grow in times of stress. In other words, gratitude makes us resilient.
- Improve our positivity ratio. The positivity ratio is defined as your frequency of positive emotions over any given time span, divided by your frequency of negative emotions over the same time span. P/N. People above a 3-to-1 ratio flourish and create upward spirals for themselves; people below a 1-to-1 ratio perish and create downward spirals for themselves. Gratitude boosts our ratio by helping us experience more positive emotions such as optimism, enthusiasm, love, joy, and happiness, while protecting us from the destructive emotions of envy, greed, bitterness, and resentment.
- Improve our self-esteem. Gratitude makes you aware of the good other people do for you. As a result, you feel loved, cared for, and appreciated—which makes you feel better about yourself and improves your self-esteem.
Gratitude Improves Your Physical Health
It makes intuitive sense that gratitude, an emotion, would improve our emotional health. But our physical health? That’s more surprising!
Research has shown that gratitude can…
- Improve sleep. Positive emotions like gratitude activate the parasympathetic branch of your nervous system, also called the relaxation response, while negative emotions activate the sympathetic branch, often referred to as the fight-or-flight response. Considering that, it’s no surprise that gratitude has been shown to reduce the time required to fall asleep, increase sleep quality and sleep duration.
- Make you exercise more often. One of Emmons’ studies showed that people who kept gratitude journals exercised 33% more each week compared to people who weren’t keeping these journals. A possible explanation is that being grateful for one’s health makes you want to protect it by exercising more.
- Reduce pain. Gratitude and other positive emotions may have analgesic effects by stimulating the release of endogenous opioids. This would explain why grateful people report fewer aches and pains—they are less sensitive to pain and benefit from greater pain tolerance.
- Lower blood pressure. “Negative emotions create a chain reaction in the body—blood vessels constrict, blood pressure rises, and the immune system is weakened. This kind of consistent imbalance can put a strain on the heart and other organs, and eventually lead to serious health problems,” writes Emmons in his book Thanks! Considering that, it’s no wonder gratitude has been shown to lower blood pressure.
- Strengthen our immune system. Practice of HeartMath techniques designed to elicit feelings of appreciation and gratitude have been shown to result in a significant increase in levels of immunoglobulin A, a predominant antibody that serves as the body’s first line of defense against viruses.
- Lower stress. The same HeartMath techniques have been found to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and increase the hormone DHEA, which reflects a state of physiological relaxation. The reason for this reduction in stress is the activation of the body’s relaxation response.
- Activate the healing relaxation response. Gratitude activates the parasympathetic, rest-and-digest, relaxing part of the nervous system, resulting in many positive effects, such as decreases in cortisol levels, lowering of blood pressure, strengthening of the immune system, and much more. This is one big reason why gratitude makes people so much healthier.
- Help you live longer. Optimism and positive emotions in general have been shown to extend people’s lifespans. Considering that fact and all the health benefits gratitude provides, it’s fair to say that being grateful likely increases life expectancy.
Gratitude Improves Your Social Life
Your emotional and physical health aren’t the only beneficiaries of your gratitude. The people around you benefit too, in multiple ways. And because they benefit, so do you.
As far as your social life is concerned, gratitude can…
- Make you a more understanding, compassionate, helpful, and kind person. “…people who kept gratitude journals reported feeling closer and more connected to others, were more likely to help others, and were actually seen as more helpful by significant others in their social networks,” writes Emmons’ in Thanks! When your cup is overflowing with gratitude and other positive emotions, you are more likely to help others and relieve their suffering.
- Make people like you better. Family, friends, and partners consistently report that people who practice gratitude are measurably happier and more pleasant to be around. When you’re grateful, you feel loved, appreciated, and cared for. As a result, you treat people better. Besides that, positive people are generally more likeable than a negative grouch.
- Improve relationships. Gratitude has been shown to improve friendships and romantic relationships. Demonstrating gratitude to friends, partners, or family members makes them feel good, makes us feel good, and makes the relationship better. Communicating gratitude also makes it more likely that we’ll work through problems and concerns, further strengthening and deepening the relationship.
- Create a positive feedback loop. When we’re grateful, we are more likely to be empathetic, to understand others, and to act pro-socially towards them. This causes others to feel grateful and act pro-socially toward us, and so on. This is certainly one reason why gratitude builds friendships and other social bonds.
Gratitude Improves Professional Skills
The emotional, health, and social benefits carry over to the workplace, where you’re boosted both as an employer or employee.
Research has shown gratitude can…
- Improve our decision-making. Grateful physicians are better physicians. This was the conclusion of a study looking at doctors making diagnoses on the basis of a given list of ailments from a hypothetical patient. Doctors who were given a piece of candy prior to this task, thereby inducing a feeling of gratitude, made the right diagnosis more often than doctors in the control group. In short, gratitude improves decision-making.
- Increase goal achievement. In one study, people who kept gratitude journals reported more progress on their goals than people in the control group. Far from making you lazy, gratitude may actually do the opposite.
- Build our social capital. Gratitude promotes pro-social behavior, resulting in more and better friendships. As a result, grateful people develop more social capital than their less grateful peers. In other words, gratitude helps you build your network.
- Make us more effective leaders. Gratitude enhances praise-giving, motivating abilities, and other important leadership skills. Due to the contagion of emotions, grateful leaders also infect (literally!) their followers with positive emotions, resulting in performance-enhancing effects across the board.
- Make us more creative. Barbara Fredrickson explains in her book, Positivity, that positive emotions like gratitude broaden our minds. Our field of vision literally expands and we see more, both internally and externally. As a result, we come up with more ideas and find more creative solutions to problems.
- Increase our productivity. Gratitude lowers stress, boosts creativity, opens our minds to more possibilities, improves our health, raises our energy levels, reduces negative thoughts, increases self-esteem, and so on. Is it fair to assume that gratitude improves our productivity? I think so!
Gratitude Molds Your Personality
This part, I find most exciting. The practice of gratitude shapes your character, making you an objectively better person.
Reports from friends, family, and coworkers of people who participate in gratitude interventions often mention a significant and almost instant change in these people’s personality: grateful people are comfortable to be around; they’re humble, appreciative, kind, optimistic, and sincerely focused on other people’s well-being.
Concerning one’s personality, gratitude can…
- Make us more humble. Gratitude and humility go hand in hand; they are mutually reinforcing. Expressing gratitude induces humility in us, and humility increases our capacity for experiencing and conveying gratitude.
- Make us less self-centered. Gratitude is about acknowledging others and their acts of kindness, resulting in reduced self-focus. This, again, is one reason why gratitude is helpful in preventing and overcoming depression. It’s probably also why we like grateful people so much—rather than being occupied with themselves all the time, they show care and interest toward us.
- Make us more kind and giving. Gratitude is well-known to promote pro-social behavior. The more grateful you are, the more likely you are to help others. As your cup overflows, you feel a natural urge to help others.
- Increase spiritualism. Just like humility and gratitude go hand in hand, so do spirituality and gratitude. The more spiritual you are, the more likely you are to be grateful, and vice-versa.
- Reduce materialistic thinking. Materialism and gratitude don’t go together. They are mutually exclusive; as one goes up the other comes down. Research shows that as you become more focused on external stuff, you become less grateful. On the flipside, as you become more grateful, you start edging out materialistic thoughts.
- Make us more optimistic. Gratitude trains our mind to see the positive, rather than the negative. When looking into the future, this results in a more positive outlook. The more grateful we are, the more optimistically we look to the future.
Such findings are more important than you may realize. These personality changes are extremely sought-after. Think about it: Wouldn’t you enjoy being more optimistic, humble, kind, and less self-centered?
Take optimism, for example. Compared to pessimists, optimistic people are more successful in school, at work, and in sports. They are healthier, happier, more satisfied with their marriages, less likely to suffer from depression, less anxious, more resilient, and even live longer.
Or materialistic thinking. Perhaps the biggest impediment to happiness, materialism has been shown to make people less happy, grateful, friendly, empathetic, likeable, and purposeful. Instead, it makes them more egoistic, unfriendly, incompetent, and anti-social.
Kindness and pro-social behavior are known to increase people’s levels of happiness and positive emotion, as well as improve their relationships, health, and coping mechanisms. It also reduces anxiety, depression, and other negative emotional states, and even enhances work performance.
Self-focus, which diminishes with gratitude practice, has been shown to ruin people’s relationships, reduce their resiliency, and damage their health and emotional well-being. For example, it’s associated with higher blood pressure, increased coronary atherosclerosis, anxiety, depression, social isolation, and more.
Last but not least, there’s humility, which the poet Tennyson once described as “the highest virtue, the mother of them all.” Humble people make more likeable and effective leaders, exhibit higher self-control, are more productive at work, earn higher grades, are less prejudiced, more helpful, and have better relationships.
Thanks for Reading
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I am Brazilian, I do not speak English, I use google translator for your texts and I would like to congratulate you for your work. Gratitude!!!
That’s awesome, man! Thanks for the kind words.
quick note-the page for gratitude exercises not there
Whoopsie, will fix it. Thx!
Good job as always !!!
hi sir thank you for your gratitude talk…
My pleasure 🙂
As a practiser of regular gratitude I found your article very interesting. Thank you.
My pleasure 🙂
It’s awesome and I finally found the correct meaning of gratitude
Great post and breakdown on gratitude! I discovered this post in doing some writing about the benefits of including a practice of daily gratitude in our lives. I will be adding a backlink to this article. Cheers!
Thank you, Sean. Appreciate it! 🙂
It’s not that easy to become grateful, especially when dealing with some major stuff in your life that brings you down. But I agree that it is important to feel gratitude and look at the brighter side of things because it can be helpful towards your overall demeanor and life.