An Attitude of Gratitude May Impact Your Health

There is a time to feel anger, frustration, and sadness after an amputation or diagnosis of a life changing illness. You have the right to those emotions and everyone heals on their own time table. At some point, it will be okay to put those feelings behind you and move on. Alec’s, founder at Lion Heart who is an above knee amputee, mantra is “I am grateful for my circumstances.” He uses gratitude instead of resentment towards his situation. According to his doctors he should have died at least three times soon after his accident. When talking about his accident almost five years later, Alec is nothing but grateful saying, “I may be missing my leg, but I’m grateful to be alive.” Being grateful helps you have a better attitude sure, but did you know that it can also improve your health too? People who are more grateful tend to have better physical and mental health, sleep better, and have better relationships (In Praise of Gratitude, 2011).

Gratitude and Exercise

While gratitude and exercise on the surface don’t seem to have much in common, there is research correlating grateful people and more exercise. One study they found that the “gratitude condition” exercised nearly 1.5 hours more per week than the participants in “hassles condition” (Emmons, & Mccullough, 2003). The benefits of exercise are much more than weight loss. Regular moderate exercise may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hemorrhagic stroke, dementia, and certain types of cancers (https://www.sciencedaily.com, 2010).

Attitude of Gratitude

One in four adults in the United States are currently experiencing a mental illness. Practicing more gratitude is linked with lower rates of depression and more resiliency during difficult times (Gander, Proyer, Ruch, & Wyss, 2012). A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. Fostering a grateful attitude may boost self-esteem too. Instead of comparing themselves to others, people who are more grateful appreciate what they have and are less resentful towards other people with better jobs or more money. Instead of resenting them they are happy for other’s accomplishments (Kashdan, Uswatte, & Julian, 2006).

Get more Zzz’s

Sure, sleep makes you feel better, but it is much more important than getting rid of the bags under your eyes. Sleep is essential for an overall healthy lifestyle. Some benefits of a better night’s sleep are increased memory, reduced inflammation (inflammation is linked to cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, diabetes and stroke), more creativity, and lower stress and risk of depression. Gratitude is correlated to having more positive thoughts at bed time. Having more positive thoughts may help you fall asleep quicker and sleep for longer (Digdon, & Koble, 2011).

Gratitude builds relationships

When someone in a family unit goes through a life changing illness, or amputation it affects not only the individual but the rest of the support system. It is important as everyone is adjusting to the new situation that everyone continues to maintain and build their relationships. It is accepted that showing gratitude makes the recipient feel better. Research is showing that showing gratitude in a relationship builds the relationship for both individuals. According to the psychologist Sara Algoe, gratitude serves to strengthen our relationships with others. Feeling grateful helps us to identify people who are responsive to our needs, and helps to bring us closer to them. In another study, it suggests that expressing gratitude may be even more beneficial than just feeling grateful. Participants were separated into two groups: one that expressed gratitude to a friend and one asked to think about reasons they were grateful to their friend. Those participants in the group asked to express their gratitude perceptions changed of the relationship. They saw their relationship as one that where the supported each other, sometimes referred to as “communal strength” (Bartlett, Condon, Cruz, Baumann, & Desteno, 2012).

Ways to develop more gratitude:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Take a few minutes each day and write down three things you are grateful for. If you want to step it up a notch you can try and not repeat things over time. You should think harder each day and find new things to be grateful for.
  • Write a thank you note to someone. A quick note thanking them will be a boost for you and foster your relationship with the recipient. A goal may be to write one gratitude letter a month and send it to someone.
  • Turn your thinking around. Instead of using negative language use positive or neutral language. Being positive when talking about yourself, others, or your situation in a positive light will help foster a more grateful attitude.
  • Practice saying a sincere “thank you” to others for small things, like holding the door open, or your waiter at a restaurant.
  • Try and say more than just a simple thank you. To build your relationships with people close to you express your gratitude by showing them know how much their actions mean to you and that you are thinking of them.
  • Paying it forward is a great way to remind yourself of all that you have and help others. Volunteering has been linked to lower levels of depression and increased levels of overall wellbeing.



Bartlett, M. Y., Condon, P., Cruz, J., Baumann, J., & Desteno, D. (2012). Gratitude: Prompting behaviours that build relationships. Cognition & Emotion, 26(1), 2-13. doi:10.1080/02699931.2011.561297

Digdon, N., & Koble, A. (2011). Effects of Constructive Worry, Imagery Distraction, and Gratitude Interventions on Sleep Quality: A Pilot Trial. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(2), 193-206. doi:10.1111/j.1758-0854.2011.01049.x

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. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.84.2.377

Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Wyss, T. (2012). Strength-Based Positive Interventions: Further Evidence for Their Potential in Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depression. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(4), 1241-1259. doi:10.1007/s10902-012-9380-0

Kashdan, T. B., Uswatte, G., & Julian, T. (2006). Gratitude and hedonic and eudaimonic well-being in Vietnam war veterans. PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi:10.1037/e633942013-289

Lambert, N. M., Clark, M. S., Durtschi, J., Fincham, F. D., & Graham, S. M. (2010). Benefits of Expressing Gratitude. Psychological Science, 21(4), 574-580. doi:10.1177/0956797610364003

Publications, H. H. (n.d.). In Praise of Gratitude. Retrieved June 25, 2017, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude

Regular exercise reduces large number of health risks including dementia and some cancers, study finds. (2010, November 16). Retrieved June 25, 2017, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101115074040.htm



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