Why Grateful People Live Longer, Happier and Healthier Lives (And How You Can Too)

A recent study by the University of Southern California (USC) confirms that people who practice gratitude daily benefit from better sleep, more exercise, reduced symptoms of physical pain, lower levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure, a better sex life “and a host of other things we associate with better health.”

This first study by a neuroscientist to study the effects gratitude has on the brain revealed what people with a gratitude practice have likely known and felt for a while: being grateful feels good. USC scientists discovered links to higher amounts of the chemical oxytocin, otherwise known as “the feel-good hormone.” Study participants exhibited less depression and anxiety, connected more deeply with others, were more generous, exercised more often and were less reactive or angry during times of conflict.

So how does this correlate to living longer and healthier lives? When you sleep well, you are less likely to overeat, have stronger focus and memory, are less reactive and have fewer bouts of depression. Those with less inflammation and healthy blood pressure rates have lower risks for heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and autoimmune disease. Here are some more benefits:

Increased Positive Vibes

It helps to speak out loud. When we say “thank you” or express appreciation, it makes the people in your life feel good and also inspires them to do more. Start to notice the kind and thoughtful things people do for you: a coworker who holds the door open for you, a driver who lets you into the lane, a stranger who smiles sweetly at you, the mailman who tells you to have a good day. Little thoughtful gestures, when noticed, amount to many moments that fill you with satisfaction. Instead of noticing those who annoy and aggravate, tell yourself to take note of those who bring positivity into your life, then challenge yourself to tell them, when possible.

Enhanced Physical Functionality

The happiness that comes with gratitude is good for us: mind, body and spirit. A gratitude practice reduces stress and, as a result, every system in your body simply works better: your immune system is stronger, sleep patterns are healthier, digestion is improved, the endocrine system functions smoother and your brain is more alert.

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Rewired Thinking

Consistently practicing gratitude changes the way your brain functions, say experts. You’re rewiring your brain to think in a certain way, and, eventually, you automatically come to appreciate the small blessings in your life that you may have previously taken for granted. It’s like learning any skill: you have to work at it before it becomes second nature.

Emotional Resilience

Most of the time, experts say, we feel stressed, not because of what has happened to us, but due to our reaction to what has happened. When you’re going through a difficult time, or experience trauma or loss, you may feel sadness, distress or anxiety. This is normal and you need to be allowed to express your feelings. But those who have steeped themselves in gratitude, have built up a resilience of positive thinking that helps to find ways to cope. When you have a gratitude practice, even during times of strife, you’ll think about what you’re still grateful for.

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Stronger Relationships

When you tell friends and family how important they are to you and how much their kindness means to you, it’s powerful. They feel that appreciation and are likely to express their own, strengthening your connection. Continuing to voice that gratefulness can also help when conflict arises. Arguing is a natural part of relationships—we don’t always see things the same way—but when you have a deep, appreciative bond with someone, you often voice your differences with respect and compassion.

But just like an exercise regime, training your mind to be more grateful takes practice. Canyon Ranch experts say it may feel unfamiliar at first, but, with practice, you’ll begin to see and feel the impact on your well-being.

Four Expert Tips to Start Your Gratitude Practice Today:

1.Make Mindful Moments

Take a few moments throughout the day to get in touch with the present. This allows you to let go of thoughts of the past or future, and stop being frazzled or distracted. Notice what you see, hear and smell all around you. How does it make you feel? Think about what you are thankful for at that very moment. It can be simple things, such as a butterfly that floats past, light filtering down through leaves, or music from a passing car.

Canyon Ranch offers insights on stress management, prioritizing sleep, everyday habits to wellness and more in a series of short videos. For a more intensive wellness transformation, a stay at their all-inclusive destination resorts offers everything from relaxing spa treatments and scenic hikes to life-enhancing classes spanning stress management and spirituality. Reserved Living & Giving members receive 10% off Stay Your Way packages and bonus service allowances on eligible stays.

2.Keep a Gratitude Journal

Note three things you’re grateful for each day. Be creative and come up with new things to jot down, (and not just the tried-and-true non-descriptive list of friends, family, pets, job, health)—it helps you hardwire this attitude of gratitude into your brain. Remember that writing can go beyond journaling—for example, leave a note to a loved one to say how you feel.

3.Use Your Voice

Tell your friend, “I really appreciate how much you help me.” Call Mom just so she can hear, “Thank you for always listening to me.” Or scratch behind your dog’s ears and tell him, “You’re wonderful.” Express your gratitude through a toast during an anniversary dinner or birthday celebration. Try it at work: start or end a meeting with words of appreciation.

Gifts are also a great way to show gratitude and connect with people. Reserved Living & Giving offers discounts on gift ideas, such as 20% off flower arrangements from H. Bloom or 20% off natural bath and body care from Nopalera.

4.Start a Bedtime Ritual

Thinking about what you’re grateful for before you go to sleep can be a comforting habit. Often, we toss and turn because our minds won’t turn off. Taking this time to reflect and savor the things in your life that truly matter can put you in the right frame of mind to fall and stay asleep. If you have children, it can be fun to ask them to tell you three things they are thankful for that happened that day. As a parent, it brings you closer and reminds you to do the same. Another way to relax is to meditate before bed. Place your hands on your heart, take three deep breaths, and ask yourself what made you happy that day. Then mentally say thank you to all who brought lightness into your day.

The Oura Ring is a device that can help you keep track of your sleep patterns and determine what adjustments need to be made to ensure optimal sleep. Morgan Stanley Reserved Living & Giving members receive $30 off Oura Ring as well as a complimentary six-month subscription.


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Canyon Ranch wellness resorts offer a holistic approach to well-being, healing and transformation for their guests. Reserved Living & Giving Members receive 10% off specific packages, and bonus service allowances on eligible stays.

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