A Healthier You
If You Feel Thankful, Write It Down. It’s Good For Your Health
(Delaware Public Media) – Over this past year, lifestyle blogger Aileen Xu has kept a monthly gratitude list.
Sometimes it was the big stuff: “I’m grateful that my family is so understanding. I’m grateful so many people care.”
And sometimes it was life’s little blessings: “July 2018: I’m grateful for good hair after I shower.”
Xu started making such lists when she was in college, “at a point when I was just not in a very good place in my life.” Now, the 28-year-old lifestyle blogger and YouTuber recommends the practice to her nearly 750,000 subscribers.
It wasn’t a hard sell.
“I think just over the last few years there’s been more of a trend to focus on gratitude,” says psychologist Laurie Santos, who teaches a course on the science of well-being and happiness at Yale.
“Those types of products can remind us to take time to be grateful,” Santos says. “But it’s also important to remember that gratitude is free.”
And noting your gratitude seems to pay off: There’s a growing body of research on the benefits of gratitude. Studies have found that giving thanks and counting blessings can help people sleep better, lower stress and improve interpersonal relationships. Earlier this year, a study found that keeping a gratitude journal decreased materialism and bolstered generosity among adolescents.
In another study from August, high school students who were asked to keep gratitude journals also reported healthier eating. There’s also some evidence it could lower your risk of heart disease and lower symptoms of depression for some people.
That’s why gratitude features heavily in Santos’ happiness class. “It’s one of the practices that really wins out from the field of positive psychology,” she says, because it takes very little time, and “the benefits are so powerful.”
Making gratitude lists is one way of accessing those benefits. You could thank God or the universe. You could keep your gratitude private or share it with others. The best way of accessing and expressing gratitude may be different for each person.
Santos’ students, in addition to keeping gratitude journals, are asked to write a thank you letter and then read it out loud to the recipient. “I can show measurable improvements in well-being even a month after you’ve done this,” Santos says.
What works for some people may not work for others. To find your best method, “[r]eally think about what feels right and what feels natural or meaningful to you,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, who studies happiness and gratitude.
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