The Health Benefits of Giving Thanks
As we look toward the season of giving, spending some time to focus on what you’re grateful for can be the best gift you can give yourself. Here’s how gratitude can be a major benefit for your mental and physical health.
Feel the Mental Benefits
Feeling grateful actually has a chemical effect on your brain. When you do something that makes you feel gratitude — like getting help from a friend or making a donation to a charity — it activates the reward center of your brain. Over time those feelings can lessen anxiety and depression.
Gratitude also plays a major role in our social connections, too. Studies have shown that people who feel gratitude are more likely to be supportive of their friends and loved ones When you feel grateful, you recognize the value of the person and are more likely to feel compassion and forgiveness, even to strangers.
Feel the Physical Benefits
Expressing gratitude doesn’t just affect your mental health. It can make you feel better physically, too. For one, being appreciative helps you respect and care for your own body. Studies have shown that people who are grateful tend to take better care of themselves. They’re more likely to see a doctor regularly, and to exercise and eat healthy foods.
There are some healthy side-effects of gratitude, as well. By reducing anxiety, gratitude helps lower your blood pressure and helps you get better sleep. When you add it all up, that means your body is less stressed and more prepared to fend off illness.
Here are a couple ways to make gratitude part of your daily routine:
Keep a gratitude journal. Take a moment every day to write down something you’re grateful for. It can be something small like getting to eat your favorite food or something large like a friend consoling you after a loss. By focusing on the things you’re grateful for, there’s less room in your mind for negative thoughts.
Write a letter of gratitude. Get a piece of paper and address it to someone who has made a positive impact in your life. Write about why you’re grateful for them or for something they did, and how they affected you for the better. You don’t have to give it to them if you don’t want to — studies have shown that just writing the letter is enough to feel the benefits! If you are grateful and would like to say thanks to a Community caregiver, you can share your story here.
Give Back. There are many ways to give back to those who have helped you, or to the community. Find volunteer opportunities to give back with our patient experience team, or serve at one of our hospitals or sites of care. You can also make a donation to make a direct and meaningful impact in the lives of others.
Find more ways to say thank you at Community Health Network.