Practicing Gratitude

Are you happy? Feel fulfilled? Did you know that finding things around us to be thankful for or appreciate can help you improve both your physical and mental health? Gratitude is a way for people to learn how to appreciate what they have. This is compared to looking for something new in hopes it will make them happy or feel they can’t be satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel unnatural at first, it will grow stronger with use and practice. Here are our top 5 ways practicing gratitude benefits your health.

Make you Happier

Make you happier. Multiple studies have found that practicing gratitude can increase your feelings of happiness and reduce depression. Part of your brain, the hypothalamus, which regulates many bodily functions, is activated with gratitude and increases dopamine. Beginning to notice what you have can help you lead a more positive and fulfilling life. 

Reduce Stress

Reduce stress. When you feel stressed, you may find it harder to regulate your emotions and may feel more irritable. It has been shown that practicing gratitude can lower your heart rate, which in turn helps you feel calmer. Learning how to pause during a stressful time and find gratitude can help reduce your stress levels. 

Better Sleep

Better Sleep. Just 15 minutes of gratitude journaling before bed has been shown to reduce sleeplessness and improve the duration and quality of sleep. Writing down your worries or unfinished thoughts before bed can help you get to bed more quickly and sleep more soundly at night.

Reduce Your Risk of Disease

Decrease your risk of disease. Having gratitude led many people to exercise more consistently and go in for scheduled preventative care visits. There are many benefits of exercise on the body and mind that we have addressed in other blogs. Regular exercise, along with checking in more frequently with your providers can lead to a decreased risk of disease. Gratitude has also been found to also reduce aches and pains. Some studies out of the Universities of Utah and Kentucky found an increase in disease-fighting cells in those who practiced gratitude, boosting the immune system and keeping you healthier. Also, there has been a strong correlation between gratitude and a reduction in blood pressure. Take a deep breath, find something to be grateful for, and reduce your hypertension.


Improve Relationships

Improve Relationships. Happy and healthy people are more fun to be around, making relationships more plentiful and easier to maintain. Think about how good it feels when a significant other or family member recognizes you for what you have done, and note how it makes you feel towards them. Expressing gratitude has been shown to increase the quality of relationships and the depth of relationships. Even when problems or concerns arise, those who communicate their gratitude tend to be able to work through the problems and maintain those friends. As it circles back to mental health, more social relationships lead to decreased stress, depression, and anxiety symptoms.


Practicing Gratitude Daily

So now that we have shown how wonderful physically and mentally gratitude can be on the body, what are the different ways you can begin to bring gratitude into your life?

  • Keep a Gratitude Journal – spending 5 minutes every day writing down what you are grateful for from the day can help you experience the positive effects of gratitude. 
  • Send a thank-you note – a gift is not required to send a note of appreciation or thanks. Not only does the act of gratitude boost you, but the recipient will surely benefit too.
  • Dinner table talk – this is one I do with my own family. Each night, with my children, we spend time going around the table and sharing what we were grateful for that day. It is amazing what kids can think of when they are taught gratitude from a young age.
  • Gratitude Meditation – just as it sounds, you reflect on all the people and things you are grateful for through meditation. Taking a few minutes each day, maybe before you get out of bed, waiting for the coffee to brew, or in a school pick-up line, can help you improve your well-being.

Regardless of how you decide to begin practicing gratitude, know that the more you express gratitude, the healthier you will become. Research has shown many times now that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. So share and spread gratitude!

We know we at Freedom Physical Therapy Services are grateful for you!


Physical Therapist at Freedom Physical Therapy Services
Molly Rittberg received her master’s degree in Physical Therapy in 2007 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and went on to receive her doctorate from Rosalind Franklin University (North Chicago) in 2009. She has since worked in an outpatient orthopedic practice where she worked with patients of all ages, injuries and disabilities. She has a wide variety of experiences including knee, ankle, foot and shoulder injuries, post-operative conditions, spinal rehabilitation and peripheral neuropathies.