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The Science of gratitude and how it benefits you

November 20th, 2023 | 4 min. read

By Jen Azevedo

We are entering the season of the holidays, a time when we think of gratitude more often than at any other time in the year. But should this be just a seasonal practice? 

Bringing attention to what you are grateful for is a routine that anyone can employ — children, adults, and seniors. This habit not only benefits you but also benefits the people around you, lifting spirits and improving health. And who doesn't like to be thanked for their efforts or good deeds? 

There are no rules about gratitude. You can feel gratitude as infrequently or as often as you want. It can be about the small things in your life (you had a nice snuggle with your dog before your day of work) or big things such as your health, safety, and loved ones.

The Paseo Club is a social club in the Santa Clarita Valley that supports members in fitness, health, and wellness. The Paseo Club community knows that health involves caring for the body and the mind, which is why we wanted to write this article for you.

In this article, you will learn about what gratitude is, how gratitude affects health, and ways you can practice gratitude in your life.

comp_IMG_3979 (1)-1What is gratitude?

Gratitude is not just a warm fuzzy feeling we are overcome by. According to Robert Emmons, a scientific expert on gratitude, gratitude can be defined scientifically. He describes gratitude as being made of two distinct components. 

The first part is that gratitude affirms goodness exists in the world, and we receive its benefits.

Second, we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. Other people, pets, nature — or even higher powers — give us many gifts, big and small.

The 18 benefits of feeling grateful 

Gratitude has measurable benefits in just about every area of our lives — our physical health, emotional/mental well-being, and relationships.

1. Mental/ Emotional

Practicing gratitude can make you healthier and happier. It releases the feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine. This process results in improved mood and increased willpower and motivation. 

2. Reduces Stress

Gratitude soothes the nervous system, lowering stress levels. This helps a person feel more calm and more collected — even in difficult situations. 

comp_IMG-17913. Increases Optimism

Gratitude strengthens new neural pathways in the brain. Over time, this trains your brain to focus on what is going well and not on stressors or hardships. This habit can shift a person’s perspective from a pessimistic to an optimistic outlook on life. 

4. Reduces Depression

Gratitude lowers depression and lessens anxiety by interrupting negative thought patterns and helping bring your attention to positive ones, thus interrupting unfavorable commentary. This approach is effective for people with mild to severe depression. 

5. Physical

Behavior changes biology. Positive gestures benefit your physical health and lifestyle choices.

6. Eat Well

According to Lisa Walsh, PhD, at the University of California, Los Angeles, people who express gratitude tend to eat more healthily and consume less junk food.

7. Better Sleep

The new research shows that counting the things you are grateful for (not sheep!) is a reliable method of getting good sleep. Participants in the study noted that their sleep period lasted longer than usual, and they felt more refreshed in the morning. 

8. Heart Health

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally. Although gratitude won’t replace the importance of eating your vegetables, it does improve heart health and lower elevated blood pressure.

comp_IMG_46629. Reduces Pain

People who spend more time experiencing gratitude spend less time experiencing aches and pains and going to doctor appointments. 

10. Immune support

Feeling gratitude boosts your immune system and reduces inflammation, making gratitude a wise choice during cold and flu season. 

11. Social

The John Templeton Foundation at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley published a 72-page document exploring gratitude. The writers concluded that gratitude is the “social glue” to building and nurturing strong relationships

12. Binds relationships

Gratitude may strengthen ties with friends, loved ones, and those in our wider communities. Gratitude breeds good feelings between both parties, fostering warmth and a sense of closeness.

13. Benefits partnerships

By practicing gratitude, couples can initiate a cycle of generosity—one partner’s gratitude inspires the other to act in a way that nurtures their commitment. 

14. Improves workplace culture

Work environments can be creative bastions of creativity or stressful hubs of bad feelings and negativity. Practicing gratitude, even for small acts of kindness, can begin to shift the workplace culture and help boost morale. 

comp_IMG_5809 (1) (2)15. Saves money

For the number crunchers, bottom-line folks who scoff at the notion of gratitude being the healing balm for modern culture, you will be happy to learn that practicing gratitude saves money. Yup, it’s true.

16. Cheaper medical care

HMOs are always looking at how to strengthen their bottom line. It was found that practicing gratitude has the greatest possible benefit from treatment in the shortest amount of time. This means gratitude is effective and efficient medical care. 

17. Reduces impulse spending

You may feel like buying a new pair of shoes when you have a cruddy day, but it actually hurts you financially and increases stress. Practicing gratitude reduces impulse buying and helps you stay within your budget.

18. Gratitude is Free

Often we turn to material things to express appreciation — a bottle of wine, a bouquet, a box of chocolates. But sharing with someone what you are grateful about is free and likely will make a lasting (and favorable) impression. 

comp_IMG-7167 (2)How to develop a practice of gratitude 

Practicing gratitude can be as simple or elaborate as you want. Here are some ideas on how to integrate more gratitude into your life.

  1. Keep a gratitude journal
  2. Choose one person every day to tell how grateful you are for them.
  3. Integrate listing what you are grateful for into your prayer or meditation practice
  4. Create a thankful-grateful roundtable for your family that is shared when you gather for dinner
  5. Write letters to friends, family, or members of your community (your family doctor, the local firefighters, your child’s teacher) to express your gratitude for them.

Gratitude is not only an act of self-care, it is an act of generosity to those around you. 

The Paseo Club is only as great as it is because of the laughter, shared stories, and words of encouragement shared among staff, instructors, and members each and every day. 

The Paseo Club is not just a fitness center, it is a place to create community. We offer social activities, charity events, and tournaments to our members monthly, as well as world-class exercise facilities. 

If you’d like to meet more people who value health and connection, then come to the Paseo Club for a tour and see if the club is a good fit for you.

Schedule a Tour

Jen Azevedo

Jen Azevedo is a tennis professional, pickleball professional, personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and the general manager of the Paseo Club. She loves the community at the Paseo Club and that it is also a safe and fun place for her daughter. Jen’s favorite activities are joining her tribe for trail races or her partners for tennis matches. Occasionally Jen slows down to relax with a book — she reads over 100 a year!