When I was a kid, I qualified for all-state choir. Essentially, all the best pre-pubescent singers got together for one day to learn music together. The day culminated in a poorly orchestrated performance (how great CAN it be when you’re not that good to begin with and have one day to practice?). That year, we performed a song that has been seared into my brain called ‘Gratitude Attitude.’ I was not grateful for this song. I’m still not grateful for this song, it was awful. All that said, there was truth in the message of the song — have a gratitude attitude, even when life deals you a low blow (or a sequence of low blows).
But gratitude isn’t all children’s songs and butterflies, it’s a real coping device with science to back it up. If seeing ‘gratitude lists’ and #blessed plastered all over your Insta stories isn’t enough proof for you (it wasn’t for me), check out these 5 science-backed reasons to practice gratitude every day.
Gratitude improves friendships.
In two separate studies, scientists found people who were grateful also tended to experience more positive emotions, be less dysfunctional, and have positive social relationships. They tended to be less angry and depressed, and more in tune with their own ideas and values. Essentially, being grateful tends to be correlated with all the traits you hope to see in your friends and partners.
Gratitude can improve your body image.
A study from Northwestern University found that writing a body-specific gratitude list (for example, “I’m grateful for my muscular legs which help me run marathons,” “I’m grateful for my abs, which might not be flat but are strong enough to get me through my yoga class”) created significant improvements in body image perception for participants. The study participants were 1,000 college women. Another study determined that practicing gratitude can lower your risk of depression, anxiety, drug abuse, and bulimia.
Gratitude (may) help you eat healthier.
A University of California study had college students write weekly gratitude letters while trying to maintain a healthy eating goal. Students who participated in the gratitude exercise practiced healthier eating over time (compared to the control group, who was asked to track their daily activities instead of writing the letters).
Gratitude lowers symptoms of depression.
Depression is often defined as an inclination to perceive the negative in yourself, the world, and the future (this is also known as the Beckian theory of depression, if anyone wants to really nerd out). Thus, expressing gratitude is the inverse of depression. Results of a 500 college student study found that not only was gratitude the inverse, but it was also directly helpful in counteracting the symptoms of depression.
Gratitude can be part of your trauma recovery.
A 2006 study explored the impact of gratitude on a group of 42 war veterans diagnosed with PTSD. When compared to veterans that were not diagnosed, they found that gratitude may be naturally much lower in people with PTSD. The study found that when PTSD patients were able to experience gratitude, they functioned better in day-to-day activities.
As someone that struggles with anxiety and depression, I’ve found the simple exercise of making a gratitude list to be beneficial for my well-being. That said, I’ve fallen out of the habit. For the next 30 days, I’m going to try to get back on track by posting my gratitude list to Instagram every day (I <3 social accountability). If you’re stuck in a rut too, I welcome you to join me 🙂