Being grateful can improve your mental health
by Tobias • 5 minutes read
Last updated: 28 Jun, 2022
Mental health is finally receiving the attention it deserves and there are studies being produced that show real benefits in areas that may not have been expected.
One area that has shown real promise is gratitude. It had been thought that being happy with what you have would make you feel grateful, but there is now evidence to suggest the reverse is true, that acting grateful will improve your mood and lead to more positive emotions. Today we are looking at science backed evidence to show all the areas of your life that could be improved by being grateful or "practicing gratitude".
Increase self esteem
A study carried out in 2015 found that gratitude may have a positive effect on wellbeing via its ability to increase self esteem. When a person is feeling grateful they view themselves as having benefited from another person, which in turn makes that person feel valued, which increases self-esteem and leads to higher levels of wellbeing.
Helps fight addiction
In one study, people that were recovering from drug addiction in a drug rehabilitation center who had a high amount of gratitude displayed strong coping strategies which in turn helped them deal with stresses and challenges, which was associated with lower drug use.
Reduces stress, anxiety and depression
Several studies have been done that shows a link between high levels of gratitude and a reduction in mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. One study in particular concluded that "Overall gratitude seems to directly foster social support, and to protect people from stress and depression, which has implications for clinical interventions."
Expressing gratitude can positively change your brain.
Kristin Francis, MD
How to be more grateful
If you are looking to become more grateful and you have a bit of a scientific inclination then I would strongly suggest that your first step would be to read "The Science of Gratitude" which was written by the Greater Good Science Center based at UC Berkeley. This guide is incredibly interesting and clarifies each of the benefits that gratitude could bestow, it has 72 pages, which in itself is evidence of how much could stand to be gained from gratitude.
Once you've read that, or if you would just prefer some simpler answers then read on to our guide for a few simple tasks to tap into the benefits of gratitude.
The big and the small, but more specifically, the small. It's easy to be thankful for a mercedes and 5 course meal, but look deeper than that, look for the small things in your life that really make living that much sweeter. This could be something as small as a smell, sound, or a physical feeling. Try to stay present and use all your senses to observe what's around you.
Sit down every day and think of 5 or 10 things that you are grateful for. Picture it in your minds eye and try to keep it in your head, sit with that feeling of gratitude and let it envelope you. If you do this every day it will rewire your brain into automatically feeling more grateful. Research shows it only takes 8 weeks for people to start showing changed brain patterns that lead to greater empathy and happiness.
Keep a gratitude journal
At the end of every day, take a few minutes to think about what you are grateful for and then write them down. There is no set number on how many things you have to write, although I try to aim for 10. Once you have made this a habit, without even trying it will help you recognise the good from each day.
Share your gratitude
The next and final step is to share your gratitude with others. Help them feel how you feel, help them see the mental and physical health benefits that come from living a grateful life. Show them this article, show them the evidence that it works.
- The Science of Gratitude - https://ggsc.berkeley.edu/images/uploads/GGSC-JTF_White_Paper-Gratitude-FINAL.pdf?_ga=2.82610261.2142947331.1637096170-1362583773.1634590861
- Self-esteem mediates the relationship between dispositional gratitude and well-being - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886915003086
- Gratitude and Drug Misuse: Role of Coping as Mediator - https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10826084.2017.1312449?journalCode=isum20
- Neural correlates of gratitude. - https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2016-20151-001
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