For those readers in the United States, tomorrow will be Thanksgiving, and to some, the official start of a month-long holiday season. The holiday began as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year, but at that time, no one knew how beneficial gratitude is to overall health and well-being. If they did, Thanksgiving would be every day! Check out the five scientifically proven health benefits of gratitude below, and start incorporating it into your day. For employers wanting to build more holistic employee wellness programs, try to incorporate acts of gratitude into wellness challenges, such as rewarding employees for thanking colleagues or appreciating what they have.
#1 Gratitude Produces Greater Happiness
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness, as it helps people feel more positive emotions. A study even showed that gratitude can even ease levels of depression. In the study, participants engaged in the in the “three good things” exercise, which, as the name suggests, prompts people to think of three good moments or things that happened that day. Those individuals that completed the exercise saw considerable improvements in depression and overall happiness, sometimes in as little as a couple weeks.
Gratitude also produces happiness that lasts. Many things, from a compliment to a candy, provide instant gratification and short-lived happiness. Gratitude, however, creates a grateful mood, which creates a virtuous circle that allows one to increase the frequency and intensity of when they feel gratitude, which increases the happiness they generate from the feeling.
#2 Gratitude Improves Physical Health
According to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people. Grateful people are also more likely to exercise and take care of their health, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.
#3 Gratitude Increases Sleep Quality And Quantity
A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that feeling grateful helps people sleep better and longer because more positive thoughts will be in their heads when they go to bed, which may soothe the nervous system. Writing in a gratitude journal prior to going to bed will improve sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.
#4 Gratitude Supports Social Well-being
Gratitude can improve existing relationships as well as forge new, healthy ones. According to a study in the Journal of Theoretical Social Psychology, partners that felt grateful toward each other can improve numerous aspects of their relationship, including feelings of connectedness and overall satisfaction as a couple. Also, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion, showing appreciation can help win new friends because thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship.
#5 Gratitude Prevents Overeating
Gratitude replenishes willpower and improves patience by boosting impulse control, which can help an individual slow down and make better decisions. A study published in Psychological Science showed that grateful individuals were significantly less likely to take a small amount of money now in lieu of more money later. In other words, they showed much more patience than the control groups and were able to delay gratification. Also, the intensity of gratitude directly predicted levels of patience. The ability to demonstrate patience and impulse control will help manage cravings for a second slice of pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving!
Bonus: Gratitude Creates Better Managers
As an added benefit for employers, managers who remember to say "thank you" to people who work for them may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder. A study from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania randomly divided university fund-raisers into two groups. One group made phone calls to solicit alumni donations in the same way they always had (control group), and the second group received a pep talk from a manager who told the fund-raisers she was grateful for their efforts. During the following week, the employees who heard her message of gratitude made 50% more fund-raising calls than those who did not.