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Health Benefits of Practicing Gratitude

Studies suggest that making gratitude a habit could have health benefits...

Direct Link between Good health and Gratitude

According to UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, regularly expressing gratitude (being Thankful and showing Appreciation) changes the molecular structure of the brain, makes you happier and helps to maintain good relationships.

In 2008, scientists first used fMRI to study gratitude. In the study, the researchers found that gratitude causes synchronized activation in multiple brain regions, lights up the brain's reward circuitry, and the hypothalamus, which has the most complex circuitry of any brain region.

NIH (National Institute of Health) Researchers have found that people who showed more gratitude overall had higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus, which controls a huge array of essential bodily functions, including eating, drinking, metabolism, stress levels, sleeping, and behavior.

Gratitude can boost neurotransmitters like serotonin (regulates mood, social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory, sexual desire and function) and activates the brainstem to produce dopamine (regulates locomotion, speech, learning and memory). Every time a person expresses or receives gratitude, dopamine releases in the brain, thus making a connection between the behavior and feeling good.

From this evidence on brain activity it becomes clear how gratitude can have such wide-ranging effects.


  • Stronger immune systems

  • Lower levels of cellular inflammation

  • Improves the heart's rhythmic functioning

  • Lowers blood pressure

  • Improves sleep quality

  • Reduces stress

  • Increases desire to exercise

  • Less bothered by aches and pains


  • Increases positive emotions and positive mood

  • Increases satisfaction with life

  • Improves mental health and sense of well-being

  • Increases self-efficacy


  • More helpful, generous, and compassionate

  • More forgiving

  • Greater perception of social support

  • More outgoing

10 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

  1. Think about someone for whom you are Grateful or something that you are Grateful for.

  2. Say Thank You, write a Thank You note or a Gratitude letter to someone for whom you are Thankful.

  3. Practice saying “Thank You” in a real and meaningful way. Be specific. Acknowledge to them the effort. Tell them what it personally means to you.

  4. Focus on the good that others have done on your behalf.

  5. Keep track of the positive.

  6. Count your blessings, Appreciate, be Grateful, feel Grateful.

  7. Be Mindful of your five senses and how does each enhance your life.

  8. If religious, pray about your Gratitude or use specific prayers of Gratitude.

  9. Meditate on Gratitude, the present moment awareness.

  10. To realize the benefits of Gratitude further try this: The Naikan Reflection Exercise

The Naikan, initially developed in Japan, is a method of self-reflection to explore one's inner self. "NAIKAN" is a Japanese word and means "introspection" or " to look inside".

The entire exercise takes about 10 minutes to complete. The process involves reflecting on the following three Naikan questions while focusing one’s attention on a particular person or situation and time.

  1. What have I received from? (receiving)

  2. What have I given or done for? (giving)

  3. What troubles have I caused? (hurting)

Naikan helps to see yourself, others and everything that surrounds you in a more realistic and complete way. Doing this reflection helps to grow feelings of gratitude and appreciation for others, helps to train mindfulness and find peace.

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