Improve your sleep, and decrease burnout and depression. A daily gratitude practice is a free and simple way to improve your mental and physical health.
In multiple studies, gratitude is associated with increased mental health and overall well-being. Specifically, a regular gratitude practice can:
Decrease emotional exhaustion or burnout
Improve physical health
People who practice gratitude regularly report more hours and higher quality of sleep. Quality sleep also helps decrease anxiety and depression. Write down a few things you are grateful for before bed and the positive vibes may help soothe you into dreamland.
In a study of healthcare professionals at Duke University, a single act of gratitude decreased burnout, improved happiness, and improved work-life balance. The gratitude practice also gave those individuals with high levels of burnout an increased desire to do something about it.
Improve Physical health
Grateful people tend to take better care of themselves by engaging in healthy behaviors like exercise and eating healthy. Gratitude practices may also decrease inflammation and increase immunity. A study of middle-aged women practicing a weekly gratitude exercise led to a decreased stress response and decreased inflammation. Stress is particularly detrimental to women - more often leading to depression and social disconnection.
There are several ways to increase gratitude in your life.
We’ll look at 2 gratitude practices that have shown the greatest impact: keeping a gratitude journal and writing a gratitude letter.
A gratitude journal is an easy way to incorporate daily gratitude practice into your life. Choose a time every day, preferably in the evening before bed to write down 3 things that you are grateful for.
A Duke University study showed that healthcare providers who embarked on a daily gratitude practice for just 15 days had reduced rates of burnout and depression. The reduction in depression was more effective than taking a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) such as Prozac and the effects continued for up to a year after they stopped the practice, which is more than we can say for Prozac!
The practice takes only about 5 minutes a day and it’s easy to get started.
Simply grab a notebook and write down the answer to these questions:
What are 3 good things that happened today?
What positive feelings did I have about those events?
Another nice aspect of keeping a gratitude journal is the ability to look back. When feeling depressed or hopeless, it’s nice to have a reminder of things you’ve been grateful for in the past. This also shows us how situations that seemed desperate usually ended up working out in the end.
Some days it will be easy to come up with 3 or more things to be grateful for. On other days, it may be a struggle to find just one. On those days, go back to the basics: you are alive, breathing, have a place to live, and have food in your kitchen.
Is journaling, not your thing? That’s ok. Studies show that writing a gratitude letter has just as many, and possibly more, positive effects as keeping a gratitude journal.
How to write a gratitude letter:
You want to set aside about 5-10 minutes for this activity.
Write a letter to a specific person that has had a positive impact on your life. This person can be alive or dead.
Tell them what they did, how it impacted you and the benefits you received, and why this is important to you.
If the person is living, an added bonus is to share the letter with them. Participants who shared their letters saw even more positive effects than those who did not.
Try to do this weekly and see how it improves your health and well-being along with your important relationships.
Try one out today. You'll be surprised by the health benefits of this simple practice!