9 Ways Cultivating Gratitude Benefits Your Health

Gratitude is simply the state of being thankful for something youíve received. It may be easily forgotten in day-to-day life, but taking time to focus on gratitude can actually have a huge impact on your health.

These are some of the proven health benefits of gratitude, as well as ways to cultivate thankfulness in your daily life.

1. Boosts Your Brain Power

High-school students who are more grateful have been shown to have higher grades than their less grateful peers. They also had more friends, greater life satisfaction and lower rates of depression. Whereas, teens with a more materialistic outlook on life had lower grades, higher levels of envy and depression and were more socially isolated.

2. Promotes Hormonal Health

Itís been proven you have greater hormonal balance when you focus on your heart and cultivate positive emotions, such as gratitude. One study found that a positive emotional focus lead to a 23 percent reduction in cortisol, a common stress hormone. On the other hand, DHEA levels increased by 100 percent. DHEA is known as an anti-aging hormone. It helps maintain bone and muscle health, as well as lower cholesterol.

3. Increases Happiness

An American study asked participants to keep a gratitude journal where, once a week, they briefly wrote down five things they were grateful for, or alternatively, five things that bothered them. After 10 weeks, those who focused on thankfulness were 25 percent happier than those who had focused on problems. The happier participants also reported fewer health complaints and exercised about 1.5 hours more each week.

Related: 5 Hacks to a Happier Life

4. Supports Immune Function

Gratitude can increase your levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA), which is an important antibody that serves as a first line of defense against pathogens. One study asked participants to focus on generating a feeling of heart-focused appreciation for someone or something as best they could for 15 minutes. Afterwards, the IgA in their saliva was significantly higher. Interestingly, when they listened to music specifically designed to enhance positive feelings at the same time as their visualization, their IgA increased even more.

5. Harmonizes Your Heart and Brain Rhythms

Your heart and brain are in constant communication with each other, and your heart rate is a good measure of how well theyíre communicating. A steady, smooth heart rhythm shows all is well. Whereas, an irregular heart pattern can indicate trouble. Appreciation and other positive emotions can synchronize brain and heart rhythms. This allows your body and nervous system to function more efficiently, which improves mental clarity and brain function as well as reduces your risk of heart disease.

Love Hands

6. Strengthens Relationships

Those who feel more gratitude are more likely to have pro-social behaviors, such as offering emotional support to others and helping someone with a problem. They also tend to have a greater sense of connectedness to others. In addition, people in intimate relationships have been found to feel better about their relationships and their partners when they regularly express gratitude towards each other, either in words or in thoughtful gestures.

7. Helps You Sleep Better

Various studies have found that cultivating gratitude can lead to a better nightís sleep. One Canadian study asked university students to write in a gratitude journal every evening before bedtime. This simple exercise helped them to sleep longer and have better quality sleep.

8. Reduces Stress

Gratitude can help you manage stress more effectively, as well as overcome trauma. A 2003 study found that those who fostered positive emotions, such as gratitude and love, had better resilience following the terrorist attacks on Sept 11. They had greater personal growth and less depressive symptoms following the attacks compared to those with a more negative mindset. Itís also been found that older adults who are more grateful experience fewer harmful effects from stress, regardless of how difficult their life circumstances have been.

9. Improves Self Esteem

A 2015 study revealed that university students with higher levels of gratitude and optimism also had greater self-confidence than their more negative-thinking counterparts. Researchers felt this was important to note because self-confidence is vital for personal development, overcoming challenges and achieving your goals in life.

Grateful Note


The neurons in your brain can be rewired to learn any new skill, such as riding a bike or learning a new language. Itís the same with emotions. You can practice focusing on gratitude and it will soon become a habit. Try some of the following tips to remind yourself just how amazing your life truly is.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

Designate a blank book as your gratitude journal and write down a few things you are grateful for on a regular basis, such as once a week. You can write as much or as little as you feel is appropriate. Many people find this simple exercise can really change a habit of negative thinking to a more positive one.

Create a Gratitude Jar

A gratitude jar is any container, such as a basket, pot, jar or box that you put hand-written notes in about things you are thankful for. You can add notes daily or whenever youíre moved to recognize something wonderful in your life. Remember to review your notes if you ever feel like you need a pick-me-up.

Express Gratitude

Did a family member help you out with a project? Was a customer service representative especially helpful? Did a friend lend you a compassionate ear when you needed someone to listen? Remember to thank the person and express your appreciation.

Related: 5 Meaningful Ways to Say ĎThank Youí


A hands-on way to express your thanks is to give something back. If an organization helped you when you needed it, consider volunteering with them to return the love. Or if thereís another group that you admire or support, contact them to ask how you can help.

Include Gratitude in Your Yoga Practice

Yoga gives you an excellent space to contemplate whatís good about your life, from simply being thankful for how your body moves, to considering where gratitude actually comes from. Check out these tips on how to cultivate gratitude through yoga.

Say Gratitude Before Each Meal

Try starting your meal by saying at least one thing youíre thankful for. If you eat with other people, invite each person to take a turn.

Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation

This type of meditation has been found to increase gratitude as well as many other positive emotions. Sociologist Christine Carter, PhD, has a great overview of how to do a quick and simple loving-kindness meditation published in Greater Good Magazine.

Take a Moment

Spend a little time in grateful reflection every day, even if itís only a minute or two. Perfect opportunities are quiet moments like during your commute to work, in the shower or over a cup of coffee. Do a quick survey of your life and see what areas you really appreciate. Chances are, youíll find a nearly endless list of things to be thankful for once you start looking.

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