Giving and showing thanks benefits more than just the recipient; it does great things for the giver as well. And this isn’t new-age mumbo jumbo. It’s backed by science.
There are physical benefits of showing thanks. A study from the Personality and Individual Differences journal found that people who are grateful also tend to take better care of their health. This includes exercising more frequently and scheduling (and attending!) regular follow-ups with their doctor. It makes sense—if you’re grateful for the life you have, you’re more likely to take care of it!
Taking a moment to give thanks also does wonders for your mental health. That’s because it helps combat negative emotions ranging from anger to resentment to fear and everything in between. Gratitude researcher Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., concludes that being thankful can, in fact, increase how happy you are while reducing depression.
Showing your gratitude can help you make friends, according to a study in the journal Emotion. The study found that new acquaintances were more likely to pursue an ongoing relationship with someone who had thanked them. These don’t have to be large acts, either. Thanking someone for holding the door open, helping you with a project, or even picking up something you dropped can make a big impression with another person.
Grateful individuals score higher on sociability and likability scales (no surprise, considering what it does for relationships!), which leads them to be empathetic people. A University of Kentucky study confirms this. Those who ranked higher on the gratitude scale were less likely to retaliate against others, even when they received negative feedback.
You may think you know the benefits of gratitude journals, but another journal—Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being—is happy (no pun intended) to tell you that writing in a gratitude journal for just 15 minutes can help you sleep better and longer.
The Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude enhanced athletes’ self-esteem, which contributed to their overall performance. Gratitude also prevents individuals from comparing themselves with others, which, as you can imagine, tends to make them much happier! They aren’t busy worrying about who has what or who is doing what. They’re just out there living their lives on their terms.
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, can be very serious. Fortunately, Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam vets who displayed higher levels of gratitude also displayed lower rates of PTSD. Another journal found that gratitude played a major role in how resilient many people were in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
You don’t have to be a pro athlete or have experienced significant trauma to reap the benefits of gratitude. As these studies show, even mundane gestures can have big payoffs for your body, mind, and relationships.
That’s a great sentiment to keep in mind this holiday season, especially after the past year and a half. Even with all this unpredictability, all of us have so much to be thankful for.