The Power of Gratitude
Eat Better, Sleep Better, and Get Sick Less Often
Everyone wants to eat healthier, sleep more, and avoid illness. The world is full of tips, tricks, books, and internet articles full of insights that claim to be the best or most effective way to accomplish these goals. Though many of these insights offer necessary strategies for healthy living, they all take pretty much the same form: they say, this is what you should do, this is what you should not do. And that’s that.
Though this simplicity is helpful when figuring out the best course of action to take to accomplish your health goals, the actual daily pursuit is much more complicated. There are emotions, setbacks, unexpected events, and more that can get in the way of reaching your objective.
One secret to staying on track?
Gratitude is rarely looked at as a resource for accomplishing health goals, but its effects are monumental.
A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology demonstrates the effects gratitude can have on healthy eating behaviors specifically.
In the study, over 1,000 ninth and tenth graders were split into groups and asked to do a weekly writing activity over the course of the month. One group of students (the control group) was asked to write lists of their daily activities for the week. The other groups were asked to write letters of gratitude to someone who either helped them with their health, helped them with their academics, or did something kind for them.
Participants were asked to then spend 30 minutes per week working on the area related to their writing prompt: either organization, health, academics, or kindness. Those students writing gratitude letters met in groups to discuss gratitude and further evoke the emotion in a community setting.
At various points throughout the study (the beginning, the end of the month, three months later) the students were asked to report on their eating behaviors by indicating how much fruit, vegetables, fast food, and desserts they ate. They were also asked to record their general emotional state at the end of each week.
Compared to the students who wrote list of daily activities, those who wrote gratitude letters were found to have healthier eating habits at the end of the month, and marginally better eating habits three months after completing the study. Perhaps the most notable part of these findings is the fact that every single gratitude group experienced better results, not just those that specifically focused on health.
This example is just one that illustrates the benefits of practicing gratitude. There is a multitude of other physical, psychological, and social benefits – including a stronger immune system, deeper sleep, less fatigue, and more positive outlook.
The best part?
Adding a gratitude practice to your life does not have to be difficult.
To get started, all you need is a pen, a paper, and five minutes to reflect on people, things, and events for which you are grateful.
Go ahead and set a reminder to give it a try tonight before bed or tomorrow with breakfast. Then see what this quick journaling practice can do for you!