Saying thank you isn’t just good etiquette—the sentiment could have a profound effect on our health. A study published by the American Psychological Association has found that recognizing the positive aspects of life and expressing gratitude for them can improve the mental and physical wellbeing of folks with asymptomatic heart failure.
The study looked at 186 men and women diagnosed with asymptomatic heart failure (which basically means they've experienced some form of heart failure or damage without the common symptoms of such a condition). They then created a scoring system to gauge their levels of gratitude and spiritual well-being. Those who had higher gratitude scores tended to have a better mood overall, better quality of sleep—and less physical inflammation, the presence of which can have severe consequences for the heart.
“We found that more gratitude in these patients was associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health," lead author Paul J. Mills, professor of family medicine and public health University of California, San Diego, said in a statement.
Mills also gained deeper insight into the role of spirituality, which has previously been linked to better health. "We found that spiritual well-being was associated with better mood and sleep, but it was the gratitude aspect of spirituality that accounted for those effects, not spirituality per se.”
The researchers then asked some of the participants to keep a gratitude journal, writing down three things they were thankful for most days of the week, for eight weeks. Those who completed the gratitude journal portion showed lessened inflammation and improved heart rate variability.
Gratitude: It does the body good