An Attitude of Gratitude for Health and HappinessPosted by Medicare Made Clear
The holiday season often brings feelings of gratitude, beginning with Thanksgiving each year. We may be reminded of all that we hold dear when we celebrate and enjoy the company of family and friends. But what about the rest of the year?
Gratitude, it turns out, is a key ingredient for physical and emotional health—and not just during the holidays. Research has shown that gratitude can help people appreciate experiences, improve health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships.*
One study showed that participants who wrote each week about things they were grateful for fared better than those who wrote about things that irritated or displeased them (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003). Overall, people in the “grateful group”:
- Were more optimistic
- Felt better about their lives
- Exercised more
- Had fewer doctor visits
Gratitude is also associated with greater happiness. This is good news, because a University College London study reported in 2011 that older adults who were happy with their lives lived up to 20-35 percent longer than their not-so-happy counterparts. Now that is something to be grateful for!
What Exactly Is Gratitude?
Gratitude can be defined as a humble appreciation for what one receives. A pure feeling of gratitude has no ego attached to it. The gift received is a true gift. It is not seen as something one has earned or that one deserves.
Grateful people appreciate what is given for what it is, and they celebrate the gift by creatively doing something with it. Even painful or unpleasant experiences can be received as gifts that may help one learn and grow.
Gratitude helps you refocus on what you have instead of what you may lack. And the really good news is that, with practice, gratitude may become a stronger force in your life.
Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude
Here are some suggestions for bringing gratitude into your life on a regular basis.
Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down the gifts you receive each day. You may want to share your list with a loved one as you discuss the day’s events. Something as simple as the glint of the sun on a snowy branch can bring joy and gratitude for life.
Write a thank you note. Express your appreciation to a special person for the impact they have had on your life. An email may do, but a handwritten note may deepen the experience. Deliver and read it in person if possible. Gratitude shared has a ripple effect and may spread joy in countless ways.
Count your blessings. Each week sit down and write in your gratitude journal about your blessings or positive events that happened. You may want to pick a number, such as three or five things, that you will identify each week.
Pray. In many traditions, gratitude is expressed through prayer.
Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment and observing the mind without judgment. A word or phrase (like a mantra) may be used as an object of focus. You may also focus on something you are grateful for, such as the warmth of the sun.
Be the Change
Slowing down long enough to notice life’s gifts, big and small, may in itself bring more gratitude into your mind and heart. Feeling gratitude is a great first step and can help lift your spirits. The next step is expressing gratitude and living gratefully, which may help lift the spirits of others as well.
What are you grateful for today?
For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.
Greater Good: Get more info and the science behind gratitude.
Gratefulness.org: Learn more about the practice of grateful living.
Medicare.gov: The official U.S. government website for Medicare.
1. Emmons RA, et al. “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Feb. 2003): Vol. 84, No. 2, pp. 377–89.
2. Grant AM, et al. “A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way: Explaining Why Gratitude Expressions Motivate Prosocial Behavior,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (June 2010): Vol. 98, No. 6, pp. 946–55.
3. Lambert NM, et al. “Expressing Gratitude to a Partner Leads to More Relationship Maintenance Behavior,” Emotion (Feb. 2011): Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 52–60.
4. Sansone RA, et al. “Gratitude and Well Being: The Benefits of Appreciation,” Psychiatry (Nov. 2010): Vol. 7, No. 11, pp. 18–22.
5. Seligman MEP, et al. “Empirical Validation of Interventions,” American Psychologist (July–Aug. 2005): Vol. 60, No. 1, pp. 410–21.