Health Benefits of Gratitude: 5 Ways Counting Your Blessings Can Improve Your Life

Thanksgiving will come and go, but the positive effects of gratitude can last all year.

Gratitude can help you sleep better

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In a study from Grant MacEwan University in Alberta, Canada, anxious students slept better when they jotted down a list of things they were thankful for before bed every night for a week than when they didn't do the writing exercise. Study authors hypothesized that thinking about their blessings helped students reduce worry and quiet their minds. (Related: Looking for a stress-free Thanksgiving? Get our FREE guide for an unforgettable Thanksgiving. You'll get easy recipes, kid-friendly crafts and games, inspiring traditions, and more ideas for the best holiday yet.)

Gratitude can increase your willpower

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In a fascinating experiment from Harvard University and others, scientists challenged participants with a test of willpower: Take $54 now or receive $80 in 30 days. While they contemplated their decision, the subjects were asked to write about a time they felt grateful, happy, or neutral. Those who wrote about a grateful experience showed far more resolve to delay their reward than the rest of the group. The scientists believe gratitude fostered long-term thinking, which bolstered willpower.

Gratitude can lower stress

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Instead of counting worries, try putting a number to your blessings. According to science journalist Giovanni Alesio, several studies suggest that gratitude can decrease stress and anxiety by activating the areas in the brain that the release feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine.

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Gratitude can help you make more friends

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If you want to expand your social circle, try saying these two words: thank you. In a 2015 study published in the journal Emotion, thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. (Related: Here are 24 little ways to be a good friend.)

Gratitude can reduce aches and pains

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Sounds like a long shot, but according to research by Robert Emmons, a University of California, Davis professor and pioneer in the study of gratitude, grateful people report fewer symptoms of illness and are less bothered by aches and pains. (Related: These mental outlooks can make your pain feel way worse.)


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