December 11, 2023
How Thankfulness May Impact Inflammation, Sleep, and Mental Health - The Thinking Conservative
How Thankfulness May Impact Inflammation, Sleep, and Mental Health - The Thinking Conservative
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Learn about the transformative power of gratitude—boosting immune functions, improving sleep quality, and enhancing mental health. 

Pessimism and negativity are notorious fun-killers, making you about as welcome at a party as a skunk at a garden soiree. But recent research implies these killjoy mentalities may wreak havoc far beyond simply dulling our social lives.

Evidence links the opposite mindset—one embracing positivity and thankfulness—to fighting disease and nurturing optimal health.

Gratitude Lowers Inflammation 

Gratitude may do more than build character—it could help combat inflammation, according to recent research.

Regularly expressing thankfulness lowers biomarkers of inflammation, a 2021 study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity has found.

In the randomized control trial, researchers divided 61 healthy middle-aged women into two groups that journaled about gratitude weekly. The “gratitude” group was instructed to describe and thank people in their lives. Participants in the control group received a descriptive, neutral writing prompt. After six weeks, the gratitude group showed significant reductions in inflammatory markers.

“This research contributes to a growing literature on the reinforcing relationships between positive emotions, prosocial behavior, and physiological processes related to physical health,” the authors wrote. 

These findings also build on previous research suggesting gratitude journaling can improve physiological factors related to cardiovascular health. Though the exact mechanism is not confirmed, one theory is that gratitude may reinforce relationships between positive emotions, social behavior, and physical wellbeing.

Grateful People Sleep Better

Gratitude may also foster better sleep.

A study in Behavioral Sleep Medicine found that people with higher scores on a gratitude and appreciation test tend to experience longer, higher-quality sleep. The researchers hypothesized this could be because gratitude reduces depression, which can impair sleep. “Highly grateful individuals have lower symptoms of depression, which in turn leads to fewer presleep worries, resulting in better perceived sleep quality,” the authors wrote. 

2020 systematic review of 19 scientific articles confirmed a “strong relationship” between gratitude and improved sleep quality. In chronic pain patients, gratitude’s anxiety-reducing effects may mediate better sleep.

By Vance Voetberg

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