the ultimate goal-getter zig ziglar once said “your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” the takeaway? positive thoughts are more than just words floating around in your head. studies are now showing that gratitude actually has the power to transform your health, your level of happiness and your life. what could you achieve simply by shifting your attitude into gratitude mode? let’s find out!
1 [keeps your ticker runnin’ smoothly] when UC-San Diego professor Paul Mills recently conducted a pair of studies on the effects of gratitude on cardiovascular health, he not only found lower levels of plaque build-up and inflammation among those who were grateful, he also discovered a decrease in risk for heart disease in those patients who spent just two months gratitude journaling. his theory? that gratitude reduces stress, a huge contributing factor to heart disease.
2 [helps you snooze soundly] it’s an indisputable fact: people with higher levels of gratitude have a higher quality of sleep. they fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. in one Canadian study, researchers actually found that a group of college-student insomniacs who were required to keep a daily gratitude journal for a week enjoyed improved sleep, as well as fewer physical problems and less worrying.
so how does it work? another study looked at people’s brain activity as they felt feelings of gratitude. the result: gratitude increased activity in the region of the brain that creates dopamine, and since dopamine helps regulate sleep and wakefulness, this means you're pretty much guaranteed to get some zzz's.
3 [inspires you to get your sweat on] turns out, there is a bigger workout motivator than that monthly Victoria’s Secret catalogue. you guessed it: gratitude! aside from the extra burst of energy it incites, one 11-week study found that those who were instructed to keep a weekly gratitude journal put in 40 more minutes per week working out than the non-journalers. and more time in the gym (or on the jogging trail, or in the swimming pool, or on the yoga mat) means more effective weight-loss.
4 [makes your honey seem a little sweeter] according to researchers, expressing gratitude to your significant other for even the tiniest of favors immeasurably boosts relationship satisfaction. in one study, 67 couples journaled their gratitude nightly for two weeks, recording their partners’ thoughtful actions and their own reactions. turned out, those with grateful partners felt more connected with their partner and more satisfied overall with the relationship.
5 [knocks out depression] gratitude is pretty much a one-two punch for a host of toxic emotions - icky feelings like envy, resentment, regret and irritation, and multiple studies confirm that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. but how? scientists think it’s because gratitude shifts our thinking from negative to positive by ushering in a surge of warm + fuzzies like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.
6 [boosts immunity] where gratitude exists, optimism follows - a characteristic that research has shown boosts the immune system. one study comparing the immune systems of healthy, but stressed first-year law students found that those characterized as optimistic maintained higher numbers of immune-system-protecting blood cells than their more pessimistic classmates. feel a cold coming on? just turn that frown upside-down!
7 [ups your goal-getter game] wanna hear something cool about goals? maintaining an attitude of gratitude makes you more likely to achieve them! in one study, participants were divided into three groups and assigned to keep a daily journal - the first group kept a log of things they were grateful for, while the other two groups were asked to record their daily annoyances or general daily observations. guess which group showed a significant increase in determination, attention and enthusiasm. you got it: the gratitude journalers! another study of 1,035 high-school students found that the grateful subjects had more friends and higher GPAs.