In previous articles this month, we have discussed what gratitude is and how to cultivate it. I would like to explain why we should practice. So, just what are the benefits? Let’s explore some of the physical, mental, social, and spiritual perks of gratitude.
It has been shown that grateful people are more optimistic, and science has shown a link between optimism and a boosted immune system. Optimism also leads to stress reduction. Stress makes us more vulnerable to illness affects the body’s ability to recover quickly from illness. In addition, a link has been found between gratitude and better sleep. Studies show that those who write in a gratitude journal fell asleep faster and slept longer than those who do not. Studies have also shown that grateful people tend to take care of their health and even exercise more often. This is strongly correlated with prevention of and lessening the effects of heart disease and cancer.
It seems gratefulness has some mental health benefits as well. Grateful people are less stressed (an emotional as well as physical reality), have happier memories, and, for all you victims of Facebook postings out there, tend to feel less envious. Think about it: when you are happy with what you have, you worry less about what you don’t have, and are less likely to envy what others have… or at least appear to have from Facebook, where everyone’s life is “perfect.”
Gratitude has social perks too. The optimism cultivated by gratefulness is attractive to others. Joyful people are fun to be around; they tend to have more friends and have closer relationships with them. Those who are grateful also tend to be more empathic and trusting. Many studies have shown that gratitude lends itself to healthier marriages. Gratitude leads to satisfaction and couples who are more satisfied with their relationship feel more connected.
In many verses in the Bible, we are called to approach the Lord with a thankful heart. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says this to us, ”rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Remember, gratitude opens the heart and makes us feel connected. That is such an important element of prayer. Could it be that we are asked to be thankful in part because He knows the benefits?
So this Thursday when you are seated around a table with friends and family, or if you have some quiet time to yourself, take a moment to name a few things that you feel grateful for. It might be the best night of sleep you’ve had in a long time… or you can blame it on the turkey.