Appreciating the good things in life offers a variety of benefits for self and others, and can be incorporated easily into daily living. There is growing evidence that positive emotions play an important role in our overall health and sense of well-being. One such positive emotion is gratitude. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading scientific expert on gratitude, defines it in two parts:
- Gratitude means we recognize that there are good things in the world and in our lives.
- With gratitude, we acknowledge that goodness comes from outside of ourselves; that others helped bring about good things.
Recognizing and responding to moments of gratitude and intentionally practicing gratitude can promote a variety of health benefits:
- Gratitude promotes other positive feelings such as optimism, joy, and enthusiasm.
- It can help reduce unpleasant mood states like anxiety and depression.
- As we feel better emotionally, our energy can increase, giving us more internal resources to take care of ourselves – mind, body, and spirit.
- Gratitude has been linked to positive health outcomes such as lower blood pressure, improved immune system, healthier weight, better sleep, and fewer aches and pains.
- Gratitude helps us reduce stress by returning our bodies to a more relaxed state and building resilience for future challenges.
- Gratitude helps strengthen relationships and promotes pro-social behaviors, such as helping, sharing, and cooperating.
It is perhaps gratitude’s relationship to social connections that impacts our well-being most. As Robert Emmons writes, “It is gratitude that enables us to receive and it is gratitude that motivates us to return the goodness that we have been given.” In other words, with gratitude, we give ourselves the opportunity to more fully experience the good in our lives and to share that good with others. This promotes the health and well-being of all.
As we look ahead to 2020, we can reflect on the good things from the past year to start the New Year off in a positive frame of mind. Gratitude, along with other positive practices, can help us build resilience and counteract the effects of stress. Join me on Fridays in January 2020 for the group health coaching series, Build Resilience with the SMART Lab. We will take a more in depth look at how relaxation strategies and positive emotion can help to reduce stress. Participants can observe their heart rhythms in real-time with the use of the OSU SMART lab’s biofeedback technology. Click here to sign up today.