My trip to India has led me to reflect on many things about my life. My most recent posts have been expressions of gratitude for many things that I value and appreciate: my family, my home, clean air, and my ability to travel all over the world. Expressing gratitude for the good things in my life felt….well… good. And the process of being thankful was pretty easy.
I was curious about whether expressing gratitude or being thankful was good for people. I took a look at the research, as summarized by in 2010 by Dr. Alex Wood and colleagues, conducted on the topic of expressing gratitude and found some interesting things. Take a look at the findings and think about your outlook on life. It may be that regular expressions of gratitude can improve your well being.
Life Orientation Towards Gratitude
Defining gratitude is kind of tricky. Gratitude is usually considered an emotion that people feel when another person gives them some sort of aid, like money, during a time of need. However, there are other ways to look at gratitude. There are people who have a life view that is focused on noticing and appreciating good things. These people are said to have a life orientation towards gratitude. Here are just a few characteristics that people with this life orientation may have:
- an appreciation for other people
- a focus on what you have
- doing things which show gratitude
- focusing on good things in the present moment
- realizing life is short and appreciating the time that we have
Being Grateful and Mental Health
Although research evaluating gratitude is in its infancy, there is some evidence that being grateful is linked with good mental health. People who have a life orientation focused on being grateful are less likely to be depressed. Those who are thankful or grateful are less likely to being diagnosed with anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Beyond mental health, people who often feel or express gratitude seem to be more satisfied with their life.
Gratitude and Relationships with Other People
Being a grateful person is also linked with good social relationships. People who are grateful are more likely to have high quality relationships and are more forgiving. Gratitude seems to help with both starting and continuing a positive relationship. So if you are looking to start a good relationship, look for a grateful person!
Gratitude, Stress, and Health
Although there is some information about the link between gratitude and mental health, there is much less known about how gratitude relates to stress and health. There is some evidence that people who are grateful have less stress and sleep better, but there has not been much research linking gratitude and health.
So, based on this information, should you work on being thankful? Can expressing gratitude help treat your depression or anxiety? Right now, we do not know whether expressing gratitude is a good way to treat a mental health condition. There are several studies that suggest that practicing gratitude may improve your mood, but it is not clear whether these changes can lead to resolution of a mental health condition. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, or any other mental health condition, it is important to visit your doctor or mental health provider to get a treatment plan that is right for you.
How do you see the world? Do you express gratitude? Are you a grateful person? Does being grateful affect your mood?
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Visit the other posts in my “Expressing Gratitude” series:
The information provided in this blog post is not designed to provide medical advice. If you have a medical, mental health, or safety question, consult with your health care provider.