Gratitude is the expression of appreciation for what one has. It is a recognition of value independent of monetary worth. Spontaneously generated from within, it is an affirmation of goodness and warmth.
When we get a hold of the idea that everything we have is a gift—and we express appreciation for the gift of life itself—we shift our perspective away from what we don’t have to what we do have. In appreciating what we have, we invite important changes to take place in our brain and body. Indeed, expressing gratitude on a daily basis provides many benefits—here are five that might surprise you.
Reduction in physical and mental symptoms of distress. Based on a study of 200 chronic pain sufferers, those who expressed gratitude for the good things in their lives reported less depression, anxiety, fatigue, inflammation, and insomnia.
Creation of positive changes in your brain. When we feel—and express—gratitude, we can increase the volume of gray matter in the right inferior temporal gyrus of the brain; this helps us to regulate our emotions more effectively. It also enhances dopamine and serotonin and changes the hormones that regulate fear and anxiety.
Enhanced connection with others. When we express gratitude to others, we not only realize their importance to us, but we build stronger connections and feel more supported by those around us. And social support is a well-documented key factor in developing resilience in hard times.
When we keep a daily journal of our blessings, we are likely to experience less pain and be more willing to engage in physical activities that help us move toward health and away from dysfunction.
Regulation of stress. Gratitude helps us regulate the stress hormone cortisol. Keeping our cortisol levels in check in turn improves our cardiac function when we are under stress and increases our ability to stay balanced.