And there are several good reasons to express our gratitude much more frequently than once a year because of the many ways that gratitude benefits our health. Thinking of things that we are grateful for makes us feel good and is linked to optimism, a characteristic that boosts our immune system. Lisa Aspinwall, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Utah noted one study which found that first-year law students under stress that were optimistic had more immune-protective blood cells by midterm than their more pessimistic classmates.
Gratitude helps keep our hearts healthy. Results of a study reported in the American Journal of Cardiology suggest that positive emotions lead to alterations in heart rate variability, naturally occurring beat-to-beat changes in heart rate, which may be beneficial in the treatment of hypertension and in reducing the likelihood of sudden death in patients with congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease.
Spending a few minutes at the end of the day thinking about things we’re grateful for quiets our mind before sleeping and helps us get a better night’s sleep. Better sleep, along with feeling good and being optimistic, also help us manage stress better.
When we feel good we’re more likely to help others or lend emotional support to others, which helps strengthen relationships. And finding things we’re grateful for about loved ones gets us to focus on the positive, which helps us appreciate each other even more.
Interestingly, according to a study mentioned in the Huffington Post, high-schoolers who are grateful have higher GPAs, better social integration, and were less depressed or envious than their non-grateful counterparts.
Your assignment: every day, before you go to sleep, write down three to five things you are grateful for. They could be some of the bigger things in your life of some of the small things that happened throughout the day. Then notice how you feel and how you sleep. Notice how you interact with others and how they respond to you. I think you will be happy with the results!