Important Things You Need To Know About:
The Benefits of Gratitude to your Mental Health
By Alex Lorimer-Carlin, EPC Student Intern
With the holidays having just wrapped up, things are slowly returning back to normal. You may have seen friends and family, gone to (or even thrown) parties and holiday events. You may have exchanged gifts, food, and time. You likely expressed thank you and appreciation with the exchange of words, gifts, food, and time. We thank each other so much during the holidays. Why do we do this?
To show gratitude! To express appreciation and value.
Gratitude is defined as, “The appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; It is a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation” (Sandsone, R. A., 2010).
Although gratitude is important around the holidays, it’s equally as important in your day to day life year round. You’d be surprised at the power of a simple “thank you!” Here’s a few of the benefits that gratitude gives to us, and to the people we’re showing it to;
1) Gratitude can make you happier overall
Almost all of the research listed above, along with an enormous amount of literature in psychology, report a strong relationship between gratitude (both given and received) and your overall happiness. Gratitude makes you focus on and feel more positive emotions (Wood et al., 2009), is associated with greater happiness (Caputo, A., 2015), builds stronger relationships (Algoe et al., 2010), and provides you with an overall sense of well-being. All of these things can increase your happiness, and make you feel better.
2) Gratitude improves psychological health
Robert Emmons, a gratitude researcher, shows a link between gratitude and well-being over multiple studies. His research confirms that gratitude increases happiness, reduces depression and anxiety as well as reduces anger and resentment.
3) Gratitude can help our romantic relationships
A study conducted on couples living together suggests that when partners are thankful to one another and practiced gratitude, they felt increased interpersonal connectedness and satisfaction with the relationship overall. Always thank your partner for the little things; Even if it may not seem like much, just a quick thank you for it can actually make you stronger together. (Algoe, S. B., Gable, S. L., & Maisel, N. C., 2010)
4) Gratitude helps you sleep
Woods, Joseph, Lloyd and Atkins (2009) ran an experiment focusing on gratitude and overall sleep levels. What they found was people who are grateful typically focus on positive thoughts and emotions as they fall asleep, instead of negative ones. Gratitude in our everyday lives can facilitate these thoughts automatically, both getting us to sleep faster and keeping us there longer.
5) Being grateful can make us less lonely
The act of gratitude leads us to feel more interconnected with those involved in the interaction (even if we don’t know the other party involved!), reducing feelings of loneliness. Genuine emotional interactions evoke a feeling of closeness within us. (Caputo, A., 2015)
6) Gratitude makes us work harder and better as a part of a team
At work and home, we’re frequently asked to help people with activities and tasks. Typically at the end of such a task, the person we were working with will thank us. As the “helper,” when we recieve this gratitude, we perceive an increase in prosocial impact (that we’re important to those around us and the overall functioning of the work or home unit), and actually become more engaged in other tasks the following day. If you need help with a job, make sure to thank your coworkers or family members; You’ll likely see an increase in productivity! (Lee, H. W., Bradburn, J., Johnson, R. E., Lin, S., & Chang, C., 2019)
With all of this in mind, it’s time to head back out into New Year. Whether you’re at work, with friends or loved ones, or just picking up a coffee from the local barista, a genuine “thank you” can go a long way; Both for you, and the person on the other end. Being grateful takes both practice and time to get it right, but once it’s there, the positive benefits will flow in your favour, and in favour of those around you; It’s important for everybody’s health and well-being.
Try journalling three things your are grateful for everyday and see how your mood, sleep, and outlook improve. When you are impatient, angry, or sad try to remember some of these things you are grateful for to change your mood to a positive state. Creating a gratitude practice can be rewarding and beneficial to your mental health.
- Algoe, S. B., Gable, S. L., & Maisel, N. C. (2010). It’s the little things; everyday gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 17(2), 217-233.
- Caputo, A. (2015). The relationship between gratitude and loneliness: the potential benefits of gratitude for promoting social bonds. The European Journal of Psychology, 11(2), 323-334.
- Lee, H. W., Broadburn, J., Johnson, R. E., Lin, S., & Chang, C. (2019). The benefits of receiving gratitude for helpers: a daily investigation of proactive and reactive helping at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 104(2), 197-213.
- Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., & Atkins, S. (2009). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognition. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66, 43-48.
- Sandsone, R. A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: the benefits of appreciation. Psychiatry, 7(11), 18-21.