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4 Reasons Why You Should Express Gratitude Every Day

New research highlights the important link between gratitude and well-being.

Myriams-Fotos / Pixabay
Source: Myriams-Fotos / Pixabay

Anyone who has been in therapy is probably familiar with the “Three Good Things" exercise or similar interventions that aim to increase gratitude.

The Three Good Things exercise asks people to write down three things that went well for them each day and to reflect on why each good thing happened. It is a go-to technique in the therapist’s toolkit as it has been shown to increase psychological “flourishing” and lower depressive symptoms.

In fact, a growing body of research highlights just how important expressions of gratitude can be for our social, emotional, and physical health. Scientists have found:

  1. Gratitude facilitates social well-being. Studies have shown that gratitude interventions such as reflecting on positive daily events or keeping a gratitude journal can facilitate social well-being. A 2016 study found that keeping a gratitude diary increased students' sense of belonging. Another study found that expressions of gratitude by managers motivated their employees to be more productive in their daily work.
  2. Gratitude enhances emotional well-being. Studies have shown a positive association between expressions of gratitude and positive emotional states such as happiness, life satisfaction, and flourishing. One study found that a gratitude intervention improved happiness in a sample of adult women (but not as much as a mindfulness intervention). Another study found that the Three Good Things intervention increased flourishing in a sample of elderly adults.
  3. Gratitude benefits physical health. Numerous studies have examined the relationship between gratitude and physical health markers such as cardiovascular health, stress and inflammation, pain perception, and sleep. One study found that keeping a gratitude journal improved diastolic blood pressure. Another study found that focusing on things to be grateful about before bed each night increased pre-sleep calmness. Yet another study found that people who kept a gratitude journal for 14 days reported fewer headaches, clearer skin, less stomach pain, and reduced congestion.

If you’re still not sold on the value of gratitude, consider a recent investigation into the link between expressions of gratitude and sexual satisfaction in long-term romantic relationships.

"Over the course of a relationship, most couples experience declines in sexual, and thus relational, satisfaction," state the authors of the research, led by Ashlyn Brady of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. "We predicted that gratitude would increase 'sexual communal strength'—that is, the extent to which people are motivated to be responsive to their partner’s sexual needs—because gratitude motivates partners to maintain close relationships. These predictions were supported."

To arrive at this result, the researchers recruited 118 couples to participate in a multi-month study. Participants were asked to report the level of gratitude they expressed and received over a 3-week period. They were also asked to report their degree of sexual satisfaction. The researchers then re-contacted people three months later and asked them to complete the same measures. They found that changes in gratitude were closely associated with changes in sexual satisfaction. In other words, people were sexually satisfied to the extent that they expressed and received a high degree of gratitude.

Keeping a gratitude journal or ending your day with the Three Good Things exercise is a great way to bring more gratitude into your life. And expressions of gratitude can come in any form. They can be directed at a person or at a problem or challenge you are facing. For instance, a recent study published in the journal Positive Psychology found that adapting the Three Good Things exercise to focus specifically on financial gratitude (the "Three Good Financial Things") resulted in increased happiness and financial satisfaction.

The main thing is that you carve out time to express gratitude on a daily basis. Your mind, body, and spirit will be grateful back.

More from Mark Travers Ph.D.
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