7 Health Benefits of a Grateful Heart

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you all enjoyed your time with loved ones. This time of the year, I always reflect just how far I’ve come in my personal journey. I have so much to be thankful for — my family, my health, and, yes, my hair

It’s officially the holiday season. It’s a time for festivities, but also a time for giving and a time for gratitude.

I recently heard this quote from Robert Brault: “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

I absolutely love that! There’s so much we can take for granted or overlook because it’s not flashy or trendy. That’s why it’s amazing to look back and see all the blessings, small and big, in my life this year.  

But what’s even more amazing is all the health benefits of gratitude! Let’s look at 7 ways a thankful heart can help you out in the long run. 


1) Cardiovascular Health

The holiday season, time with family, and beautiful decorations just makes my heart happy. So it’s fitting that there’s a connection between gratitude and a healthy heart.

Research has found that individuals who practice gratitude in their daily lives experience lower blood pressure and improved heart rate variability (HRV). HRV, the variation in time between each heartbeat, is an important indicator of cardiovascular health. A higher HRV is linked with better heart health, and interestingly enough, gratitude seems to help increase HRV. Basically, being thankful can lead to a more resilient and adaptable heart.


2) Digestion

It’s a tradition to eat until we’re stuffed over Thanksgiving and the holidays. But turns out, gratitude might just be the secret sauce for a happy, well-functioning gut.

Stress and your gut have a deep connection, so gratitude helps out your digestive system indirectly through stress relief. We will cover more of that later! For now let’s talk about mindful eating, a core component of a thankful mindset. When you savor each bite, fully appreciating the flavors, your body enters a state of rest and digest. This is the parasympathetic nervous system kicking in, promoting optimal digestion and nutrient absorption. So as you relish your holiday feast and practice mindful eating, your gut will thank you! 


3) Immune System

I don’t know about you, but I feel like there’s always some sort of cold or sickness going around over the holidays. On the bright side, practicing gratitude gives your immune system a boost during the season of sniffles and sneezes!

Gratitude has been linked to an increase in the production of immune-boosting cells, such as T-cells and natural killer cells. These cells are the frontline defenders against bacteria, viruses, and other intruders. Plus, when you're in a thankful state, your body goes into a proactive mode, producing more antibodies to stand guard against potential infections. It's like giving your immune system an extra pep talk.


4) Mental Health

During times when you feel down, it can be hard to feel thankful. But gratitude has so many mental health benefits, including lowering stress, reducing your chances of anxiety and depression, and helping strengthen your neuroplasticity. 

Ever heard of neuroplasticity? It's the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. Practicing gratitude is like a workout for your brain's feel-good pathways, strengthening them over time and cultivating a resilient mindset. And it's not just about the big, momentous blessings. Gratitude is like a magnifying glass for the little joys in life — the smell of fresh coffee, a cozy blanket, or a friendly smile. By appreciating these small moments, you're training your brain to seek and savor the positive aspects of your daily life.


5) Skin

A lot goes into happy skin, including the right skin care routines, but a dose of gratitude can also make a world of difference. When you're in a state of thankfulness, it's like sending your skin on a relaxing spa day. 

Studies suggest that gratitude is linked to lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that can wreak havoc on your skin. So, by practicing thankfulness, you're not just nurturing your mental well-being; you're also giving your skin a breather from the daily stressors. Plus, when you're thankful, you're more likely to practice self-care. Whether it's staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, or using your favorite skin care product, these habits contribute to your skin’s overall health and appearance.


6) Sleep

I like to talk about beauty rest because sleep is so important for your hair and overall health. And it turns out that practicing thankfulness is another great way to get better sleep!

Studies suggest that practicing gratitude is associated with lower levels of stress and a quieter mind at bedtime. It's not just about the absence of stress, though. Gratitude can also shift your mindset from the day's challenges to its highlights. By focusing on the positive aspects of your day, you create a mental environment conducive to relaxation. Plus, gratitude has been linked to an increase in the production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. So, by embracing gratitude, you're paving the way for a more restful and rejuvenating night.

7) Stress

I saved the best and biggest benefit for last! More and more research seems to come out every day about how much stress hurts your health and your hair! Stress wreaks havoc, including on these other areas we’ve mentioned like digestion, mental health, and sleep. But guess what can help counteract stress? You got it — gratitude!

Gratitude has tangible effects on your body's stress physiology. Research has discovered that practicing gratitude is associated with lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. When you cultivate a thankful mindset, you're basically rewiring your brain's stress response. Instead of dwelling on what's going wrong, gratitude encourages you to focus on what's going right. And the more you make gratitude a part of your lifestyle, the more resilient you become against stressors. It's like building a positivity shield around yourself. So if you’re searching how to reduce cortisol or how to stress less, look no further than gratitude!

How to Practice Gratitude in Your Everyday Life 

Now that we’ve covered all the wonderful benefits of gratitude, let’s cover how you can make thankfulness your constant companion. Whether it's jotting down blessings in a gratitude journal or simply reflecting on your day, these gratitude practices signal to your body and mind to spend less time stressing and more time in a state of thankfulness. Here’s some ideas to practice gratitude in your everyday life:

  • Do a daily act of kindness for another person
  • Don’t forget to say thank you, even for the little things
  • Find ways to compliment others, especially people you aren’t on good terms with
  • Get outside or go on nature walks
  • Gratitude journaling 
  • Listen to inspirational podcasts
  • Live mindfully; stay in the present
  • Read books to help shift your mindset
  • Reflect before bedtime on that day’s blessings
  • Set goals centered around gratitude
  • Share on social media what you’re thankful for
  • Spend quality time with friends and family
  • Take a break from technology with a digital detox
  • Try meditation or yoga 
  • Unfollow any negative influences in media 
  • Volunteer for charitable organizations
  • Work with a therapist or life coach on gratitude habits
  • Write notes of appreciation or a card for others

I hope these ideas are a good start! There’s so much more you can do in your own life to adopt an attitude of gratitude, and a little goes a long way to better health and mindset in your day-to-day life. Wishing you the best holiday season, with less stress and a thankful heart!