The Power of Gratitude
An expert tells why giving thanks is good for your health.
By Stephen Post, PhD
I’m a researcher. As a professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine, I deal in facts. I’m also a father and a husband—a man blessed with a rich family life. Like many researchers, I’ve always felt that my clinical and my personal lives were two different things. Two different worlds, really.
Then, in 2001, I created a research group called the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (IRUL), dedicated to testing and measuring the effects of love and other positive caring emotions in human life. Our findings surprised me, as I think they will you. Our studies have shown that love-related qualities—like gratitude—actually make us physically healthier.
The implications of this research have changed the way I look at my life all year ’round, but they’re especially meaningful to me during the holiday season. Here are five discoveries from our work at IRUL to keep in mind as you gather together to give thanks with your loved ones.
1. Gratitude Defends
Just 15 minutes a day focusing on the things you’re grateful for will significantly increase your body’s natural antibodies.
2. Gratitude Sharpens
Naturally grateful people are more focused mentally and measurably less vulnerable to clinical depression.
3. Gratitude Calms
A grateful state of mind induces a physiological state called resonance that’s associated with healthier blood pressure and heart rate.
4. Gratitude Strengthens
Caring for others is draining. But grateful caregivers are healthier and more capable than less grateful ones.
5. Gratitude Heals
Recipients of donated organs who have the most grateful attitudes heal faster.
Stephen Post, PhD, is the author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People. Check out unlimitedloveinstitute.org for more on his research and order his book at whygoodthingshappen.com.