3 Research-Backed Health Benefits of Gratitude

mental health self-care Nov 20, 2018

In our busy lives we often look for solutions to balance, reduce stress, and focus better. Expressing gratitude in one’s life helps improve overall well-being. Although it is sometimes hard to believe taking the time each day to be grateful can be worth the time, gratitude improves your outlook on life, health and happiness.

Outlook on Life

Being grateful helps us be more optimistic. A study done by Dr. Roberts A. Emmons of the University of California and Dr. Michael E McCullough of the University of Miami had participants write a few sentences for ten weeks focusing on different topics. The first group wrote about things they were grateful for that occurred during the week. The second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had bugged them during the week. The third group wrote about what events had affected them during the week with no focus on positive or negative. At the end of the study those in group one were more optimistic and overall felt better about their lives. Expressing gratitude helps us increase our optimism and outlook towards life.

Physical Health

Gratitude can also increase physical health. This is seen in the same study by Dr. Emmons and Dr. McCullough. At the end of the ten weeks they found those individuals who focused on writings things they were grateful for exercised more and had fewer visits to the doctors than those who focused on irritations throughout the week. It’s easy to think about irritations and things that bother us, but this is not to our benefit! Focusing on expressing gratitude is worth the time investment.


Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania did a study where he tested the impact of different positive psychology interventions. In this study, he compared a group of participants who wrote and delivered a letter expressing gratitude to a control group who wrote about their early memories. The group who wrote and delivered a letter each week showed an immediate significant increase in happiness scores. The benefits for individuals writing and delivering a thank you card lasted for a month - longer than any other positive psychology intervention. Expressing gratitude has immediate and long-lasting effects which again makes it worth our time investment.


Next time you feel a little weighed-down, negative about life or feeling unmotivated to exercise or take care of yourself, focus on gratitude for at least a week or two! You can do that by writing and delivering thank you letters or by keeping a daily thank you journal of 3-5 things you are grateful for each day. Focusing on gratitude will help you have a more positive outlook on life, be healthier and happier.



Works Cited:
Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

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