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Choose Gratitude, Choose Health

November 19, 2020

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life... It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

- Melodie Beattie


Gratitude can be defined in a number of ways but is typically described as the quality of being thankful or appreciative. 

But, gratitude is more—so much more. 

It’s a whole-body experience capable of building relationships, cultivating joy, and healing our physical selves. 

And when practiced regularly, gratitude is a powerful tool for optimal health. 

For most, some form of gratitude is present daily—i.e. saying ‘thank you’ as a stranger opens a door—but, how often do we do so with purposeful, conscious intention? How often do we actively make gratitude a part of our ecosystem? 

It’s likely not often or at least not enough. 

Fortunately, with a little time and consistency, this low investment practice can yield massive returns in all parts of your life. 

The Scientific Benefits Of Gratitude: 

A significant body of research indicates that gratitude has substantial benefits for our personal well-being and interpersonal relationships. In a world full of stress (and a year—2020—that has proven to anything but smooth), having a gratitude practice becomes an even more powerful tool for optimal health. 

Here are just a few ways gratitude can help you on your journey towards optimal:

Life satisfaction

Life satisfaction refers to an individual’s assessment of their life as a whole and the degree to which they feel positively or negatively—essentially how much an individual likes their life.

While often associated with happiness, life satisfaction and happiness are two different concepts. Happiness describes feelings from moment to moment, whereas life satisfaction asks the individual to evaluate their life as a whole. As a result, measurements of life satisfaction, predominantly using the “Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS),” have been shown to be a reliable predictor of other health-related factors. 

A 2019 study set out to find a link between gratitude and life satisfaction, asking participants to keep gratitude lists for 14 days. Life satisfaction was measured three times throughout the course of the study using the SWLS. 

The study found that a regular gratitude practice increased life satisfaction scores, with the effect increasing over time (higher scores with each subsequent test). 

From the study:

“The main findings of the present study demonstrated that the gratitude intervention was able to increase positive affect, subjective happiness, and life satisfaction, and reduce NA {Negative Affect} and depression symptoms.” 

While life can be challenging at times, gratitude is a great way to shift perspectives and remember all the good that remains present. A regular practice, it would appear, leaves you feeling more satisfied and fulfilled overall. What are you waiting for? 

The Heart-Brain Connection

Could gratitude actually elicit physical changes? It appears the answer is yes!

We often think of emotions as being centered in the heart—this is an idea that has persisted throughout ancient culture and continues today.  

While this may seem a bit outlandish, there is actually a pretty good reason—gratitude shows us exactly why. 

The study referenced below used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and heart rate (HR) data before, during, and after a gratitude practice. Amazingly, researchers found that the expression of gratitude significantly lowered the participant’s heart rate. 

From the study:

“Given that HR is decreased among people with high self-esteem, and increased among people with high stress and anxiety, our results suggest that gratitude intervention modulates heart rhythms in a way that enhances mental health.” 

Another study found a similar effect but looked at Heart Rate Variability (HRV). 

Over the course of 8-weeks, 70 participants were asked to keep a gratitude journal. Participant’s resting HRV was taken at the outset of the study and then again at the conclusion. Results showed no significant difference in HRV from the beginning of the study to the end—however, researchers measured HRV prior to and following a gratitude task and found a significant increase in HRV. This indicates that gratitude may elicit an immediate state change, with increased HRV as one of the responses.  

From the study: 

“Increases in parasympathetic cardiac tone during the laboratory-based journaling task may reflect state changes that occur while contemplating items or feelings of gratitude during daily life” 

What does this mean? Our heart actually responds actively to gratitude. And the benefits for our health are significant. 

Next time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, practice some gratitude—your heart will thank you!

Decreases Inflammation

Inflammation is continually implicated as a major component of modern disease—any strategy for reducing the burden of inflammation is critical for creating optimal health. 

As it turns out, gratitude may just help!

In a 2015 study of 186 participants, researchers found that greater expression of gratitude was associated with lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers. While the exact mechanisms remain unknown, it would seem as though mental health and physical health are closely linked at the cellular level. 

From the study: 

“Gratitude and spiritual wellbeing are key positive factors to consider in this population. We documented that an attitude of gratitude is related to better mood and sleep, less fatigue, more self-efficacy, and a lower cellular inflammatory index.”

Optimizing cellular function and lowering inflammation just by being grateful? We’re in!

Improves Sleep

Sleep is a critical variable in the optimal health equation as consistent, high-quality sleep is required to heal and repair from the stresses of an active lifestyle. 

However, thanks to cultural norms that encourage late nights, the use of artificial, 24/7 entertainment, etc, lack of quality sleep has become a major issue.

Could gratitude be a possible solution?  

A study conducted in 2009 sought to find a link between the expression of gratitude and sleep quality. In 401 individuals, researchers found that greater expression of gratitude had a positive effect on sleep quality. 

From the study

“Gratitude was uniquely related to total sleep quality, subjective sleep quality, sleep latency, sleep duration, and daytime dysfunction, after controlling for the effects of the Big Five and social desirability. The results of the current study also provide evidence that pre-sleep cognitions mediate the relationship between trait gratitude and sleep quality. When falling asleep, grateful people are less likely to think negative and worrying thoughts, and more likely to think positive thoughts. It appears that negative pre-sleep cognitions impair sleep, and gratitude reduces the likelihood of such thoughts, protecting sleep quality. Equally, it appears that positive pre-sleep cognitions have a positive effect on sleep and that gratitude facilitates these thoughts, leading to superior sleep quality”

Consistent expression of gratitude appears to have a significant positive effect on sleep quality. If you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, try incorporating a regular practice into your nightly routine. Better yet—track the results with a wearable like the Oura ring to understand just how powerful it can be. 

Increases Prosociality

Prosociality refers to voluntary behavior or action intended to benefit others—this could include sharing, comforting, or helping in any manner

While this may not be a concept you consider regularly, it’s actually quite important for individual and collective health. 

Interpersonal relationships and communities are built on the exchange of prosocial behavior amongst individuals. Increasing the amount of such behavior builds stronger relationships and closer bonds amongst individuals, which is beneficial for the wellbeing of all. 

And the benefit occurs on two levels—the recipient/community and the individual.

On a personal level, prosocial behavior is associated with better mood, decreased stress and feelings of happiness—all important factors in creating long-term, individual health. 

A 2017 meta-analysis examined 91 studies and found a significant correlation between gratitude and prosocial behavior, which means the regular practice of gratitude could result in stronger relationships/communities. 

From the study:

“Gratitude underlies all forms of reciprocal relationship, which is linked to returning favors (direct reciprocity), being helped by others because you have helped another entity (downstream indirect reciprocity), and helping others because you have been helped (upstream or the ‘pay-it-forward’ indirect reciprocity). This is especially the case when gratitude is directed towards close social bonds, rather than feeling grateful for cherished things in the world. Thus, this emotional focus on others cements the social bond and underscores gratitude’s central role in the evolution of reciprocal prosocial behaviors.”

How often do we actively incorporate gratitude into our relationships and communities?

How much stronger could they be if we did?

Like anything, community optimizes success—consider making gratitude a part of your individual and community ecosystem, and success will follow. 

Decreases Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns are becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s society. Finding protective strategies is critical for preventing the occurrence and assisting those who may be struggling already. 

A growing body of research has continually found gratitude to do just that.

One study in particular was able to demonstrate that gratitude was a powerful predictor for less depression and anxiety, making outlook a powerful tool for mental health. 

From the study

“The grateful disposition represents a protective factor against depression and anxiety partly because it is significantly connected to a lower level of feelings of inadequacy and self-denigration, but also lower self-hate and self-repugnance, which represent more severe forms of self-criticism. Additionally, being grateful renders individuals more prone to show kindness, comprehension, support, and compassion toward themselves when setbacks and frustrations occur.”

Gratitude is a powerful tool for mental wellbeing—both short term and long term. Harness the healing properties and encourage those around you to do the same!

Strategies For Daily Gratitude:


Expressing thoughts and beliefs through the written word is a powerful tool and greatly enhances the power of your gratitude practice.

Gratitude journaling is personal and can be as simple or complex as you would like to make it, but typically involves either answering a specific prompt or making a list. 

There are a number of resources available and many products designed to keep your practice focused and rewarding. 

Whatever you choose, be consistent as benefits will accrue over time!


Placing the focus on gratitude during meditation is a powerful tool for wellbeing as both practices have proven benefits. 

Here is a great resource for learning more about gratitude meditation.

Thank You Notes

Writing a thank you note is a great way to engage in gratitude and offers a benefit for both the individual and recipient.

Make it a consistent practice by committing to sending one per week. 

Call Somebody!

Like a thank you note, taking the time to give somebody a call confers a two-way benefit. 

Next time you have some free time (on your drive home, waiting in line, etc), give someone a call and let them know they are appreciated!


Ask yourself this one question every day

Here’s a simple one—commit to asking yourself this one question every day: 

“What am thankful for?”

It doesn’t get easier than that! 

Set A Reminder

Use your phone’s reminder feature to give you a daily push to complete your practice. This is a great way to keep your practice consistent and sustainable over time. 

Reminder: Make Your Gratitude Practice Social

Combining community and gratitude is a powerful tool for positivity, change, and collective wellbeing. 

Find ways to incorporate others and help all those around you reap the benefits. This could simply mean regularly asking others what they are grateful for or creating a more formal program or activity. 

Whatever you choose, do it with others, maintain accountability, and harness the incredible benefits of regular gratitude. 


A consistent gratitude practice is a key input for optimal health—one far too many are leaving on the table.  

Shift your perspective, focus on the good, and make gratitude a daily experience—both for yourself and those around you.

The rest will follow. 


Medical Disclaimer: This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Monette nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program. Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Products sold on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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