Gratitude is being prescribed as the medicine for lasting happiness. What is it about this thing called “gratitude” that is constantly being promoted by positive psychologists and researchers alike?
Gratitude is the emotion of thankfulness that affects many areas of one’s life, including physical, mental, and emotional health. Gratitude has the ability to deepen one’s spiritual connection to divinity and their higher self, as well as to cultivate a rich relationship with the Earth.
Gratitude is more than picking up a piece of paper and writing down the good things in one’s life. It’s a daily choice – an embodiment of thankfulness that has the ability to change one’s life.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is the act or emotion of thankfulness. It is the art of appreciation that takes shape through words, material gifts, and acts of service. Its subtle forms are felt through energy, embodiment, connection, love, joy, and inner peace.
Embodying gratitude doesn’t mean everything is flowers and sunshine. Gratitude cannot be taken as a pill with the expectation that one will always be happy or never face challenges. Rather, gratitude is a daily reminder of the good in one’s life and can be used as a resource during times of trial.
That being said, gratitude is a profound medicine for the psyche and should not be brushed aside as another happy-go-lucky trend. It is helpful to look at gratitude in a holistic context, rather than as a single isolate in one’s pursuit of happiness.
Emmons found those who practice regular gratitude have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and are less bothered by aches and pains.
For example, let’s say someone is wanting to be healthier so they start working out. Even though they are working out, they are still consuming copious amounts of fast food and soda, smoking cigarettes, and hanging out with toxic people.
While working out is a great step in the right direction, it’s not enough – on its own – to make someone a healthier individual. Sometimes exercise is the first step an individual needs to take in order to change other lifestyle habits, but again, it cannot be relied on alone to make someone healthier.
The same goes for gratitude. It is a critical aspect of a joyous life, but it cannot be isolated as the sole source of happiness.
Now that I’m off of my soapbox, let’s dive into the many amazing benefits of gratitude.
The Benefits of Gratitude
When one commits to a daily gratitude practice, it benefits every aspect of their life. From strengthening mental and emotional resolve to enhancing physical health, gratitude is quite powerful in its effect. Just after a few weeks, many who commit to a gratitude practice become aware of differences in their life, such as noticing more beauty, inspiration, and love in the world.
Physical Benefits of Gratitude
Robert Emmons is one of the leading researchers on gratitude and has discovered much about its physical benefits. His article, Why Gratitude Is Good, recounts the findings of his research.
Emmons found those who practice regular gratitude have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and are less bothered by aches and pains. Furthermore, when exposed to stress, those who practice gratitude show lower blood pressure responses. Conversely, those who are more sensitive to stress show higher blood pressure responses.
His research, along with research conducted by Dr. Wendy Mendes shows that gratitude also enhances one’s quality of sleep. Quite remarkably, high levels of gratitude are shown to elevate levels of “good” cholesterol, and lower levels of “bad” cholesterol, thus reducing one’s risk of cardiovascular and heart disease.
From these studies, we can see that gratitude has the ability to truly enhance one’s physical health and protect one from disease on a cellular level.
All of these findings, including mental health benefits (which we’ll dive into more below), can be found in this video published by the Greater Good Science Center:
Mental Benefits of Gratitude
One’s mentality is where one truly notices the benefits of gratitude. Physical studies show that those who have gratitude respond better to stress when related to blood pressure. The same goes for handling mental stress, thus gratitude enables a stronger mental resolve to stressful scenarios.
Emmons’s research shows that those who have a daily gratitude practice exhibit higher levels of positive emotions, such as happiness, pleasure, and optimism. They also feel more alive, alert, and present in their surroundings. When one is able to be more present and tuned into their life, they’re able to have more appreciation for the subtle beauty around them.
Another randomized control trial published by the Journal of Psychotherapy Research states, “participants in the gratitude condition reported significantly better mental health than those in the expressive and control conditions.”
Keeping a gratitude journal also helps you keep track of all the positive things that happen in one’s life.
In my own life, I have noticed inner peace arise when I focus on what I have and what I have been blessed with. This peace is able to anchor me during times of uncertainty and fear. When I look back on what I have been blessed with, and how I’ve been protected and taken care of by the spirit, I can trust that I will be continuously cared for. In this way, gratitude anchors me in my spiritual faith.
Spiritual Benefits of Gratitude
Gratitude has been mentioned throughout many holy texts. In my spiritual practice, gratitude is a core foundation, as it helps me focus and remember all the ways I am cared for and guided.
No matter who you worship, or if you don’t worship anything at all, there is no doubt that gratitude leads to seeing the beauty in one’s life. For some, this beauty leads to a curiosity about the great mystery – that is God, spirit, divine mother, or whatever you want to call it.
When one is fully expanding their heart and embodying the essence of gratitude (not just thinking grateful thoughts but feeling the sensations of gratitude) there is a connection to a higher power. For me, when I am in a state of pure gratitude, I can connect even deeper to the spirit and feel the magic of that connection.
Who Can Benefit from Practicing Gratitude?
Everyone, no matter where in life, can (and should) practice gratitude in whatever form works best for them. This can be through meditation, going into nature, a gratitude journal, or just mental checks throughout the day.
I know how difficult it can be to feel grateful when one is in a dark place. To that, I will say this: don’t force it, but ask yourself what needs to be done in order to move through this season of life. Holistic healing requires awareness of each aspect of life – what can you do to help move you forward on a path to healing? Perhaps it’s starting a gratitude practice, maybe it’s seeking support from others.
If you feel resistant and too stuck in the muck to practice gratitude – that’s okay. It just means it’s not the best place for you to start – but it’s still essential to healing and living a joyous life. Check back in with gratitude when you can.
Ways and Places to Practice Gratitude
In every place and in every season of life one can practice gratitude. Here are some examples:
Benefits of Gratitude in the Workplace
Gratitude can truly make a difference in the workplace. Instead of focusing on all that one dislikes about their job, they can start focusing on what they enjoy and appreciate. I firmly believe that gratitude opens up more possibilities, deepens connections, and provides one with more compassion. In this way, gratitude can help one have more compassion and patience with their coworkers and more appreciation for what their job provides in their life.
Benefits of Gratitude Journals
A gratitude journal is a great way to start a gratitude practice. It’s quite simple, every day you write down all that you’re thankful for. It’s recommended to do this for an extended period of time, at least three weeks, in order to notice the effects of gratitude in one’s life.
Keeping a gratitude journal also helps you keep track of all the positive things that happen in one’s life. When faced with doubts about the goodness of life, one can go through their gratitude journal and be reminded of their blessings.
Recommended Books that Explore the Benefits of Gratitude
If you’re interested in diving deeper into gratitude, and how one can truly embody this healing medicine, it’s best to read books on the subject. This allows greater insight and tools one can use to start practicing gratitude in their day-to-day life. Here’s my recommended reading list for books on gratitude:
- “The Little Book of Gratitude: Create a Life of Happiness and Wellbeing by Giving Thanks” by Robert Emmons
- “The Gratitude Diaries” by Janice Kaplan
- “The Psychology of Gratitude” by Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough
- “Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
- “Gratitude” by Oliver Sacks
- “Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life” by Angeles Arrien
- “Spirituality of Gratitude: The Unexpected Blessings of Thankfulness” by Joshua Choonmin Kang
Who is the leading expert in gratitude?
Robert Emmons is the leading scientific expert on gratitude.
Is gratitude an emotion?
Gratitude can most certainly be felt as an emotion, and it is also a conscious practice of the psyche.
The Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Changes Experienced By Real People Who Focus On Gratitude
I have personally experienced the benefits of gratitude, and I was curious if my friends and family felt the same. I asked them this specific question to dial in how gratitude affects one’s life: when you focus on the things you’re grateful for, do you notice any changes in your life; mentally, physically, spiritually, and or emotionally? Here’s what I discovered:
|Mental and Emotional Changes||Times Selected|
|I experience an overall lift.||16%|
|A calmer mental state.||34%|
|More present to my surroundings.||17%|
|I focus on the abundance of what I have.||17%|
|Physical Changes||Times Selected|
|I notice myself quicker to smile and I relax around my eyes and temples.||33%|
|I feel like I am physically glowing from the inside out and I have less body pains when I’m in the zone of gratitude.||33%|
|My body feels calmer.||33%|
|Spiritual Changes||Times Selected|
|Things tend to align more pleasantly.||33%|
|Renewed trust in the Spirit.||33%|
|Gratitude brings me closer to my highest self.||33%|
- Meaningful Life – How to Truly Live and Feel What Matters
- Attitude Of Gratitude – How Perspective Can Change Life
- Gratitude List – A Clever Technique for Meaningful Happiness
- Being Content – My Methods to an Easier and Happier Life
- Appreciate What You Have – My Experiences with Gratitude
- Gratitude Meditation – Successful Ways to Reflect and Grow
- How To Practice Gratitude – Steps for Powerful Perspective
Gratitude is a healing balm to the psyche, promotes vitality in the physical body, and deepens one’s faith. Research continues to uncover just how important gratitude is, and how beneficial it is for our lives. Now that you know the amazing benefits of gratitude, what is one way you can start practicing gratitude today?