The Benefits of Gratitude

  • Published
  • By Dr. Stephanie Grant, LCSW, 144th Fighter Wing Director of Psychological Health, 144th Fighter Wing
  • 144th Fighter Wing

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, we will take time to reflect on what we’re are thankful for. The benefits of this simple act can offer benefits throughout the year. For decades, researchers have studied the effects of thankfulness on psychological health, physical health, and relationships and found there to be substantial benefits. According to Robert Emmons, a leading expert on gratitude, individuals that habitually practice gratitude report numerous benefits:


Physical - Improved immunity, less bothered by aches and pains, lower blood pressure, more likely to exercise, better health, longer sleep, and waking up more refreshed


Psychological - More positive emotions, more alert, more joy and pleasure, more happiness and optimism


Social - More forgiving, more outgoing, more helpful, generous, and compassionate, feeling less lonely and isolated


Gratitude allows us to enjoy the present. When we are thankful and appreciate what is happening in our current situation, we give it meaning and value. We are less likely to take life for granted.


Gratitude blocks negative emotions. Experts agree that people who have high levels of thankfulness exhibit low levels of envy and resentment. Grateful people are more resilient and stress resistant. A number of studies show that individuals with a grateful demeanor are able to deal with difficult circumstances and recover much quicker.


Grateful people feel better and have a higher sense of self-worth. When you are grateful you can see the contributions that others have made in your life and the value that others place on you. This process can be transformative in helping us keep a positive attitude about our place in life.


There are some simple strategies that we can utilize to help us maintain a grateful attitude. We can keep a gratitude journal and list five things we are grateful for each week. It helps us to focus our attention intentionally on the positive aspects of our life. Another simple idea is to practice counting our blessings on a consistent basis, such as first thing in the morning or before going to bed at night. Practicing gratitude does not have to be written down on paper to work. Another strategy is to “pay it forward” and think of ways that you can help someone in need. When we focus our attention on others who are less fortunate, it helps cultivate our sense of thankfulness. Consistently practicing an attitude of gratitude can have a profound effect on how we live our life each and every day.