Boost your immune system thanks to improved optimism levels. Not surprisingly, grateful people tend to think more optimistically which researchers say boosts the immune system. Lisa Aspinwall, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Utah stated, “There are some very interesting studies linking optimism to better immune function.” In one study, researchers comparing the immune systems of healthy, first-year law students under stress found that, by midterm, students characterized as optimistic (based on survey responses) maintained higher numbers of blood cells that protect the immune system, compared with their more pessimistic classmates.
Increase alertness, determination, energy and more. In one study, two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, asked participants to write weekly in a gratitude journal. Those who wrote daily reported higher levels of “positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others).” Another benefit reported was that participants who kept gratitude lists had a greater propensity to attain important personal goals over a two-month period compared to subjects with different experimental conditions.
Squash stress levels in two ways. First, people who have feelings of thankfulness and give gratitude tend to take better care of themselves. According to an interview with Emmons by WebMD.com, grateful people—defined as those who perceive gratitude as a permanent trait rather than a temporary state of mind, have an edge on the not-so-grateful where health is concerned. Emmons stated, “Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular physical examinations.”
Secondly, while stress can stimulate sickness not limited to heart disease and cancer—and claims responsibility for up to 90% of all doctor visits, gratitude enables us to better manage stress. “Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress,” Emmons stated.
Lessen your risk of certain forms of psychopathology. Other researchers have found that focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life on a habitual basis is related to a generally higher level of psychological well-being and a lower risk of certain forms of psychopathology.
By incorporating grateful expressions and/or activities into your daily life, you will be more likely to cultivate optimism, thwart sickness and live an overall healthier lifestyle.