Give Thanks & Thrive: 25 Benefits of Expressing Gratitude

give thanks to others

The importance of saying “thank you” is one of the main things we are taught as children. We are repeatedly encouraged to give thanks to strangers and friends who have shown us kindness. This is because parents know that showing gratitude is essential to form social connections and good cooperative relationships. 

Gratitude is the ability to recognize and appreciate the contributions made by others to our life and to return the kindness shown to us [1].  When we spend quality time with others, feeling grateful, protected, and loved is normal. Showing gratitude for the positive experiences in our lives, and appreciating the good people around us, solidifies the positive feelings experienced.

Indeed, research supports the idea that gratitude can increase peace of mind and happiness and lead to better physical health and more fulfilling relationships [1].

Nevertheless, it’s easy to neglect or forget the habit of expressing gratitude on a regular basis. To inspire and encourage you to pay extra attention to the importance of giving thanks, in this article, we will cover 25 science-based benefits of gratitude.

Being grateful brings multiple benefits in our lives.

#1 Gratitude Can Make Your Attachment More Secure

All the relationships we have in our lives are in some way influenced by the attachment styles we develop as children. The good news is, not everything is necessarily set in stone. Though attachment styles develop at an early age, they can be influenced by life experiences. For example, the people we meet throughout our lives can impact how we perceive and act towards others. Positive interactions can leave us feeling good and happy, and thus have a beneficial effect on attachment security. On the other hand, negative experiences can reinforce negative views and prejudices and could have the opposite effect.

Attachment and gratitude have a two-way relationship: being grateful makes you more secure, and a secure attachment makes you more grateful. This is because people with secure attachment tend to have more positive opinions of others and their motives, and they approach new encounters with an open mind and a positive attitude [1]. On the other hand, people with insecure attachment styles tend to be wary of other people’s good intentions. This insecurity influences how they relate to and think about others, and it leads to showing less gratitude. 

In particular, an avoidant attachment makes negative attitudes towards others more resistant and difficult to change even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Anxious attachers tend to be more insecure about other people’s true feelings and blame themselves for any miscommunication, which can lower self-esteem [1].

Don’t know your attachment style yet? Take our free quiz and find out!

#2 Give Thanks and Strengthen Your Relationship

Sometimes, relationships can feel stuck in a pattern with no effective communication; we may feel underappreciated and insecure about the other person’s feelings. Because of this, it is essential to let your partner know how you really feel, as expressing sincere gratitude can contribute to more open communication and trust between partners.

Research shows that showing gratitude to your partner can increase satisfaction in the relationship and has positive effects on commitment and connection [2].

giving thanks to your partner can improve relationship quality

Relationships can sometimes increase insecurities and doubts, especially when it feels that efforts are not recognized. People who are insecure in relationships tend to have lower expectations of their partners’ emotional involvement, intimacy, commitment, and love. They usually have more negative general views of their partners. Such individuals might focus on the times when a partner has not been sufficiently supportive, for example. Due to such thoughts, they tend to lack confidence in their partner’s commitment. This attitude could lead to feelings of jealousy and loneliness. It could also cause negative behaviors (clingy, or dominating, or aimed at making the partner feel guilty) and negative expectations about the future of the relationship [1].

For these reasons, it is important to show gratitude and appreciate what your partner brings to the relationship. By showing gratitude to your partner, you can let them know that their feelings are reciprocated and that what they offer is valued. Feeling gratitude and appreciation from your other half can even lower stress and anxiety. It shows that your partner values you and what you bring to the relationship, which can make you feel more worthy and competent and can soothe insecurities [3].

#3 Being Grateful Improves Mental Health

give thanks regularly to improve mental health

Unfortunately, many people struggle with their mental health in this day and age. Anxieties about health and the state of the world have affected many of us during these uncertain times. The good news is that even small acts of gratitude can have positive effects on mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, phobias, and addiction [4,5]. 

Grateful people tend to be happier. It’s not necessary to do anything grand, but just the simple fact of noticing and being thankful for something good in our lives can make a difference. It can brighten our outlook on life and make us more optimistic. 

At the same time, there is evidence that giving thanks can mitigate depressive symptoms and improve resilience when faced with difficulties and trauma [4]. For example, new college students who were more grateful showed lower levels of stress and depression. Because of this, it is hypothesized that gratitude can make us more resilient when significant changes happen in our lives, for example, as we start university, make a career change, or move between cities [5]. Gratitude is also a staple in programs that help recovering addicts, as it makes people focus on the good things in life [6]. 

#4 Give Thanks Regularly and Feel Your Body Thrive

give thanks and feel your body thrive

Gratitude has been shown to affect the health of people with a variety of conditions. This happens mainly through its influence on stress. Gratitude acts on the stress hormone cortisol and lowers its level in the body, which has consequences for many systems, including the immune system, which can help fight illnesses [7].

Gratitude has been linked to lower levels of physical pain, lower blood pressure, increased energy, and improvement in heart conditions [8,9]. In various studies of gratitude-based interventions, people reported feeling healthier and experiencing less physical pain and aches [10]. 

Another factor on which gratitude has a big effect is sleep. Just before we fall asleep, we have many thoughts going through our heads. Those thoughts are the ones that mostly influence sleep quality. Grateful people are more likely to have positive thoughts just before sleep, which leads to better sleep quality [11].

#5 Expressing Gratitude Can Boost Your Friendships

As a society, we often place great importance on romantic relationships, but relationships between friends are just as important. Similar to romantic relationships, maintaining friendships requires communication and honesty. Being grateful to friends makes it more likely that you will work through problems that may arise. It also signals that you are paying attention to what your friends are doing and value their input. 

When we express gratitude to a friend, we feel closer to them and more invested in the friendship [12]. Moreover, friends who show more gratitude are also more likely to voice concerns about the relationships. They are, therefore, better able to work through issues. Giving thanks also improves our opinions of our friends, strengthening the relationship [12].

Summary: 25 Reasons to Give Thanks

  1. Facilitates attachment security
  2. Increases positive feelings about what we have in life
  3. Makes us feel protected and loved
  4. Lowers anxiety and doubt within relationships
  5. Contributes to open communication in a relationship
  6. Makes the partner feel valued and appreciated
  7. Helps the partner feel more confident and secure in the relationship
  8. Increases satisfaction in the relationship and has positive effects on commitment and connection
  9. Can have positive effects on mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, phobias, and addiction
  10. Facilitates positive expectations of and outlook on life
  11. Makes us happier and more optimistic
  12. Prevents the worsening of depressive symptoms
  13. Improves resilience in the face of life changes, difficulties, and even trauma
  14. Essential in the process of recovery from mental health issues
  15. Lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body
  16. Improves the function of the immune system
  17. Potentially lowers blood pressure
  18. Leads to feeling healthier and experiencing less physical pain and aches
  19. Increases energy
  20. Could improve quality of sleep 
  21. Might help with heart conditions 
  22. Leads to generally better social communication
  23. Facilitates honesty and openness in social relationships
  24. Improves our views and opinions of others
  25. Makes it easier and more likely to resolve interpersonal conflicts

Take-Home Message

We have seen the multiple benefits of gratitude and how they affect many important aspects of our lives – from our relationships to mental and physical health.

Remember to be grateful for what you have and give thanks to the people in your life. 

Here are some suggestions on what you can do to practice gratitude:
  • Start a gratitude journal and make a simple note of a thing or two you are grateful for every day
  • Give thanks to your partner for small daily gestures, such as making you a cup of tea
  • Write thank-you notes for your friends or people you appreciate in your life
  • Think of good things in your life and what you are thankful for
  • Reflect on something good someone has done for you
  • Be more intentional in expressing appreciation for the people around you
  • Volunteer in your community as another way to show you are thankful
  • Give to your favorite charity

Remember, by giving thanks to those around you, you can brighten their day and make you feel better as well. Gratitude can make you more secure in your relationships – romantic or otherwise – and improve your physical and mental health.

References

1. Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P. R., & Slav, K. (2006). Attachment, Mental Representations of Others, and Gratitude and Forgiveness in Romantic Relationships. In M. Mikulincer & G. S. Goodman (Eds.), Dynamics of romantic love: Attachment, caregiving, and sex (pp. 190–215). The Guilford Press.
2. Vollmann, M., Sprang, S., & van den Brink, F. (2019). Adult attachment and relationship satisfaction: The mediating role of gratitude toward the partner. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(11–12), 3875–3886. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407519841712
3. Park, Y., Johnson, M. D., MacDonald, G., & Impett, E. A. (2019). Perceiving gratitude from a romantic partner predicts decreases in attachment anxiety. Developmental psychology, 55(12), 2692–2700. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0000830
4. Iodice, J. A., Malouff, J. M., & Schutte, N. S. (2021). The Association Between Gratitude and Depression: A Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Depression and Anxiety, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.23937/2643-4059/1710024
5. Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. W. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: a review and theoretical integration. Clinical psychology review, 30(7), 890–905. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.005
6. Krentzman, A., Mannella, K., Hassett, A., Barnett, N., Cranford, J., Brower, K., Higgins, M., & Meyer, P. (2015). Feasibility, Acceptability, and Impact of a Web-based Gratitude Exercise among Individuals in Outpatient Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 10, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2015.1015158. 
7. Watkins, P. C., Woodward, K., Stone, T., & Kolts, R. L. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude and relationships with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 31(5), 431–452. https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2003.31.5.431
8. Digdon, N., & Koble, A. (2011). Effects of Constructive Worry, Imagery Distraction, and Gratitude Interventions on Sleep Quality: A Pilot Trial. Applied Psychology: Health and Well‐Being, 3, 193–206. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1758-0854.2011.01049.x
9. Redwine, L., Henry, B., Pung, M., Wilson, K., Chinh, K., Knight, B., Jain, S., Rutledge, T., Greenberg, B., Maisel, A. & Mills, P. (2016). Pilot Randomized Study of a Gratitude Journaling Intervention on Heart Rate Variability and Inflammatory Biomarkers in Patients With Stage B Heart Failure. Psychosomatic Medicine, 78(6), 667-676. https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000000316.
10. Hill, P. L., Allemand, M., & Roberts, B. W. (2013). Examining the Pathways between Gratitude and Self-Rated Physical Health across Adulthood. Personality and individual differences, 54(1), 92–96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2012.08.011
11. Wood, A., Joseph, S., & Maltby, J. (2009). Gratitude predicts psychological well-being above the Big Five Facets. Personality and Individual Differences, 46, 443–447. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2008.11.012
12. Lambert, N. M., & Fincham, F. D. (2011). Expressing gratitude to a partner leads to more relationship maintenance behavior. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 11(1), 52–60. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0021557

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