’Tis the season to be thankful, right?! This time of year, everyone has gratitude on their minds. And while we all know that it’s important to count our blessings and show appreciation for all the wonderful things in our lives, there are more reasons than you might imagine that gratitude is so crucial. Here are just a few of the biggest (and often unexpected) benefits that come from making gratitude a regular practice—all year around.
1. Gratitude improves your physical well-being. According to one 2012 study, people who express gratitude on a regular basis were less likely to suffer from everyday aches and pains than those who didn’t. They also reported feeling all-around healthier, and were more likely to exercise on a regular basis and get routine check-ups.
2. It enhances your mental well-being, too. Those who make gratitude a regular part of their mindset are more likely to have higher levels of happiness and a lower risk of developing depression. The practice also reduces stress-inducing emotions, such as anger, envy and bitterness.
3. Gratitude helps strengthen existing relationships and open the door for new ones. Sometimes it’s the people we’re closest to who we most forget to show appreciation for. That’s why expressing gratitude toward friends, family and loved ones is critical to making them feel valued and strengthening your relationships. It also makes you more likely to develop new relationships. According to a 2014 study in the magazine Emotion, showing appreciation for others strengthens the likelihood that a new acquaintance will want to pursue further contact or a relationship with you. It could be something as simple as saying “thank you” to someone who holds the door for you or sending a note of gratitude to a co-worker for their help with a project.
4. It improves self-esteem, enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Even when treated poorly by others, people who are full of gratitude are less likely to act in anger or retaliation. What’s more, showing gratitude is also proven to increase your empathy, all while enhancing confidence in yourself and making you less likely to compare yourself to others. Rather than looking at what others have with envy, people who practice gratitude are able to acknowledge and appreciate their accomplishments without feeling “less than.”
5. Gratitude can help you sleep better. You’ve probably heard of a gratitude journal, in which you write down a few things you’re grateful for every night before bed. According to a 2011 study, practicing this ritual for just 15 minutes each evening can help you stay asleep longer and gain more restful sleep.
6. It also helps increase your resilience. Not only does showing gratitude help to dramatically lower stress levels, but there’s also a possible link to your ability to overcome trauma. The idea is that recognizing all your blessings—even in spite of a catastrophe or painful experience—can help you move past it and cope more easily.
7. Showing gratitude can improve your career. It might sound strange at first, but it makes a lot of sense when you stop to think about it. Expressing gratitude toward colleagues, managers and your employees can make you a more effective manager, improve your decision-making skills and productivity, and make your workplace more enjoyable. As a boss, showing appreciation for your employees improves retention and motivates them to perform better—which in turn makes your job a whole lot easier.