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Gratitude Helps Minimize Feelings of Stress

How practicing gratitude is a key coping strategy for feeling less stress.

Hannah Nelson/Pexels
Source: Hannah Nelson/Pexels

Gratitude is a strong strategy to help minimize stress in our lives, which is especially intense these days with coronavirus here to stay. Whether you are experiencing higher stress levels due to life events, your role as a caregiver, or because you’re searching for a job, evidence shows that gratitude can help you. Here are at least three ways that gratitude helps minimize stress in our lives.

1. Gratitude lowers stress hormones in the body.
When a sudden stressful event or circumstances arise, the body responds naturally by releasing adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol is responsible for increases of glucose in the bloodstream to facilitate activity in the brain and repair of tissues. When stress persists and turns into chronic stress, cortisol and other hormones are active routinely, which can lead to:

The ability to cope with stress involves the use of coping strategies, which can include the following:

  • Physical exercise (e.g., outdoor walks, stretching)
  • Eating well, staying hydrated and sleeping plenty
  • Fostering supportive relationships
  • Practicing self-awareness and facilitating self-care
  • Daily gratitude exercise

If incorporated, gratitude has the potential to be a potent coping strategy. Gratitude helps lower cortisol levels in our bodies by about 23 percent, thereby preventing the health problems that stress can lead up to. What does that mean? You can avert the negative consequences of stress listed above, which millions routinely face, through a regular gratitude practice. There are additional benefits of gratitude for caregivers and job-seekers feeling increased levels of stress at this time.

2. Gratitude has the ability to minimize caregiving stress.
In a Chinese study of familial caregivers of individuals with dementia, the findings showed the beneficial role that gratitude plays in minimizing distress among caregivers. The findings led researchers to suggest incorporating gratitude into non-pharmacological interventions among caregivers feeling distress while caring for persons with dementia.

3. Gratitude also has the ability to minimize job-seeking stress.
In one study of Korean undergraduate students from 2019, those in the gratitude intervention condition demonstrated a decrease in job-seeking anxiety, perceived stress, as well as an increase in life satisfaction, mental well-being, and happiness.

What can you do?

Including a daily gratitude exercise is a habit that can work very well in releasing and removing stress. Write what you’re grateful for in a journal, in a helpful and handy app, or in a thank-you note. Acting on feelings of gratefulness will strengthen the effects of gratitude as well, especially if made to be routine. The ability to empower yourself through gratitude is a key to self-care, lifelong well-being and satisfaction, and yes, less stress. Try and be sure to take full advantage of this practice while you can.

More from Najma Khorrami M.P.H.
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