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Gratitude Is Good for Mental, Emotional, and Physical Health

By  Dr. Jon Thomas D.C PSc.D, Board Certified Chiropractic Physician.

As we enter into the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, we enter into a time for reflecting on the many blessings we have seen through the year. Acknowledging those people, organizations, and the times that have shaped them is important and rewarding in ways you may not have thought of.
“Gratitude is the single most important ingredient to living a successful and fulfilled life.” Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul
According to Wikipedia, gratitude is, “a feeling or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive. The experience of gratitude has historically been a focus of several world religions, and has been considered extensively by moral philosophers.”

In every culture, philosophers and sages have taught that gratitude is one of the keys to happiness, fulfillment, and well-being. Although the concept of gratitude seems warm and fuzzy, there has been a great deal of research in the past few decades which shows that being grateful has a significant positive impact on people’s lives.  

Gratitude Research

Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California is widely regarded as the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology. In 2003, he and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami examined the effect of a grateful outlook on psychological and physical well-being.

The study involved 201 undergraduate students who were enrolled in a psychology class at a large university. Dr. Emmons and Dr. McCullough split the people into three groups. Participants were asked to keep diaries. One group recorded daily events without being told specifically what to write about. The second group was instructed to make a list of unpleasant experiences. The third group was instructed to note the things they were grateful for.

Dr. Emmons and Dr. McCullough discovered that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher levels of enthusiasm, optimism, and energy. Participants in the gratitude group experienced less anxiety and depression. They were also more likely to help others and to achieve their personal goals. The findings were summarized in 2003 in a paper titled Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life.

Since that time, much more research on gratitude has been done. On his website, Dr. Emmons writes, “Gratitude heals, energizes, and transforms lives. We are engaged in a long-term research project designed to create and disseminate a large body of novel scientific data on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its potential consequences for human health and well-being. Scientists are latecomers to the concept of gratitude. Religions and philosophies have long embraced gratitude as an indispensable manifestation of virtue, and an integral component of health, wholeness, and well-being. Through conducting highly focused, cutting-edge studies on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its consequences, we hope to shed important scientific light on this important concept.”

Benefits of Gratitude

The research continues to show that people who maintain an attitude of gratitude are healthier, both physically and emotionally, than those who do not. People who have a grateful outlook enjoy the following benefits.

  • Better sleep
  • High energy level
  • High level of optimism
  • Capacity for forgiveness
  • High levels of joy and happiness
  • Healthy hearts and immune systems
  • The ability to handle times of loss or crises
  • Lowered incidence of stress, anxiety, depression, and headaches.

Journaling for Gratitude

One of the most common methods for maintaining a sense of gratitude is keeping a journal to record experiences one is grateful for. For example, a person might feel gratitude for something he or she saw in nature or in a work of art. Also, a nice conversation with a close friend or something as simple as a good cup of coffee could be noteworthy in a gratitude journal.

Recording positive experiences can boost levels of energy, enthusiasm, and determination. Gratitude journaling for as little as two weeks can produce positive effects for as much as six months. Here are a few questions to get started with a gratitude journal.

  • Who or what inspired me today?
  • What made me happy today?
  • What gave me peace today?

It’s a good idea to avoid repeating the same items over and over. This will require you to dig a little deeper each day. As you do, you will see more and more in your life to be grateful for.

Inspiring Thoughts About Gratitude

“Reflect on your present blessings, on which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens

“Gratitude is an immensely powerful force that we can use to expand our happiness, create loving relationships, and even improve our health. If you want more happiness, joy, and energy, gratitude is clearly a crucial quality to cultivate. It is a fullness of heart that moves us from limitation and fear to expansion and love. When we’re appreciating something, our ego moves out of the way and we connect with our soul. Gratitude brings our attention into the present, which is the only place where miracles can unfold. The deeper our appreciation, the more we see with the eyes of the soul and the more our life flows in harmony with the creative power of the universe.” Deepak Chopra

“Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present. In addition, behavioral and psychological research has shown the surprising life improvements that can stem from the practice of gratitude. Giving thanks makes people happier and more resilient, it strengthens relationships, it improves health, and it reduces stress.” Marelisa Fabrega

“Researchers have found that individuals who exhibit and express the most gratitude are happier, healthier, and more energetic. Grateful people report fewer symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, nausea, even acne, and spend more time exercising! And the more a person is inclined towards gratitude, the less lonely, stressed, anxious, and depressed he or she will be.” Ellen Goldman

In this article, I have discussed the positive impact gratitude can have on a person’s mental, emotional, and physical health. I’ve noted that maintaining a gratitude journal can be a very effective way to develop an attitude of gratitude.

If you have a comment about this article, please leave it in the comments section. If you know of someone who might benefit from the information in this blog, please share it with your friends, colleagues, and on social media.

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At Vibrant Life, we address all of the key elements to add vibrance and vitality to your life. This includes nutrition, chiropractic care, and fitness. If you need to consult with a chiropractor about your neck, back, or any other health concern, please contact our office to set up an appointment.

Through December, new patients can get complimentary Posture Analysis, Tytron Nerve Scan, and a one-on-one consultation about their health with Dr. Thomas.

Dr. Jon Thomas is a Board Certified Chiropractic Physician. His practice, The Vibrant Life Health Center, is located in the Mandarin section of Jacksonville. His interest in health and fitness started early, and  his athletic pursuits have included BMX racing, Professional Snow Skiing, Water Skiing, Baseball, Weight Lifting, and Martial Arts. After studying and learning from some of the top health experts throughout the world, Dr. Thomas dedicated his life to helping people of all ages to transform their lives. The objective for each patient is to initiate the body’s healing and to work progressively toward a body that functions optimally. Dr. Thomas is seen regularly on TV on First Coast Living, where he discusses the transformations of his patients. He also speaks at events throughout the community and writes informative articles to improve the health of residents throughout Jacksonville.


  1. I knew gratitude was good, but I didn't realize there was research to prove it. This is excellent reading for Thanksgiving week!

  2. It does make perfect sense, and it always seems people with more positive and grateful attitudes are generally happier. I will have to give this gratitude journal a try! Thanks Dr. Jon!

  3. A good mental attitude can make all the difference in the world. It all starts with being grateful for what blessing you have.

  4. I have kept a journal on what I'm grateful for for the last 4 years and when I get to look back it always brings sweet memories to me. Being grateful and recognizing it is an amazing thing, it seems to make life flow a bit easier....