Today I thought it might be helpful to discuss the use of gratitude as a tool in improving our mental wellness. I say a tool, because I don’t believe gratitude can be a cure all by itself – it’s important to access deeper emotions and memories in order to heal. However Gratitude can be a wonderful support as we engage in the very challenging work of improving our mental health.
This blog post will be part of a series that discusses the benefits of gratitude, how gratitude works to create change in how we feel, and exercises that can help us access gratitude.
There have been many studies on Gratitude and the benefits it provides. Those who engage in exercises around gratitude has been found to have:
- Improved optimism (Huffman et al., 2014) (Emmons and McCullough, 2003)
- More positive moods (Emmons and McCullough, 2003) (Mill et al., 2015)
- Enhanced peace of mind (Liang et al., 2018)
- Better sleep quality (Liang et al, 2018) (Emmons and McCullough, 2003) (Mill et al, 2015)
- Better mental health (Wong et al., 2016) (Liang et al, 2018)
Connecting to gratitude has also been found to have a positive impact on physical health: one study found that individuals who expressed gratitude after an acute coronary event had healthier hearts (Huffman et al, 2015). Another study found that those who engaged in gratitude journaling showed lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers (Mill et al, 2015).
The research is clear! Engaging in a gratitude practice could support both our mental and physical health. The next blog post will look at why gratitude has such a positive influence.
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389.
Kori D Miller 2019, 14 Benefits of Practicing Gratitude (Incl. Journaling), Positive Psychology, accessed April 30, 2023
Huffman, J.C., DuBois, C.M., Healy, B.C., Boehm, J.K., Kashdan, T.B., Celano, C.M., Denninger, J.W., Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). Feasibility and utility of positive psychology exercises for suicidal inpatients. General Hospital Psychiatry, 36(1), 88-94.
Huffman, J.C., Beale, E.E., Beach, S.R., Celano, C.M., Belcher, A.M., Moore, S.V., Suarez, L. Gandhi, P.U., Motiwala, S.R., Gaggin, H., & Januzzi, J.L. (2015). Design and baseline data from the Gratitude Research in Acute Coronary Events (GRACE) study. Contemporary Clinical Trials, 44, 11-19.
Liang, H., Chen, C., Li, F., Wu, S., Wang, L., Zheng, X., & Zeng, B. (2018). Mediating effects of peace of mind and rumination on the relationship between gratitude and depression among Chinese university students. Current Psychology, p. 1-8.
Mills, P.J., Redwine, L., Wilson, K., Pung, M.A., Chinh, K., Greenberg, B.H., Lunde, O., Maisel, A., Raisinghani, A. (2015). The role of gratitude in spiritual well-being in Asymptomatic heart failure patients. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 2(1), p. 5-17.
Wong, Y.J., Owen, J., Gabana, N.T., Brown, J.W., Mcinnis, S., Toth, P., & Gilman, L. (2016). Does gratitude writing improve the mental health of psychotherapy clients? Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial. Psychotherapy Research, May 3, 1-11.
Clare Pentelow is a social worker and psychotherapist with over 10 years experience in the mental health field.