How an Attitude of Gratitude Affects Your Emotional and Physical Health

Gratitude can make us happier, improve our relationships, and help us navigate trying times with more resilience. Can an attitude of gratitude be good for your health too? Research shows gratitude is strongly related to well-being and has lasting positive effects on our emotional and physical health.

Gratitude is an emotion we feel when we receive something good unexpectedly or take time to recognize the blessings in our lives. It can make us happier, improve our relationships, and help us navigate trying times with more resilience. But could the benefits of having an attitude of gratitude go beyond that? Is practicing gratefulness good for our health too? Research shows gratitude is strongly related to well-being and has lasting positive effects on our emotional and physical health.

What Is Gratitude?

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” — William Arthur Ward

Gratitude is a combination of two qualities: the appreciation and recognition that something is valuable to you. First, we affirm there are good things, gifts, and benefits in the world. Second, we look through the lens of gratitude and recognize that there are sources of goodness in our lives outside of ourselves. We acknowledge the positive things that come our way, even when we are not actively seeking them.

In digging into the word itself, grata or gratia is the Latin word for a given gift. Derived from the same root, grace is a word meaning giving an unearned gift. We may experience a feeling of gratitude at unprompted times, but we can also choose to welcome gratitude into our lives. It’s more than an emotion; it is being mindful of the people and things in your life and deeply appreciating their presence and support. When this becomes regular practice, you can’t help but lead a more positive, fulfilling life.

Benefits of Gratitude

Science and psychology have not always recognized the role gratitude plays in our happiness levels and overall emotional health, even though certain philosophers recognized its significance. They believed gratitude was crucially important to a successful civilization and played an important role in daily life. As Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, stated, “From ancient religious scriptures through modern social science research, gratitude has advanced as a desirable human characteristic with the capacity for making life better for oneself and for others.”

Emotional Health Benefits of Gratitude

With gratitude, we acknowledge the goodness in our lives, which helps us connect to something larger than ourselves as individuals—whether to other people, our loved ones, nature, or a higher power such as God, spirit, or the universe. Many people experience emotional benefits of gratitude, such as numerous negative emotions being reduced, including envy, resentment, frustration, and regret.

Robert A. Emmons has conducted a great deal of research on emotional psychology and has examined the connection between well-being and gratitude. He found that adopting an attitude of gratitude reduces depression, improves relationships, and generally helps people feel happier.

Other studies have shown that grateful people are more empathetic and less aggressive, and that a grateful heart is a more peaceful heart. The very nature of gratitude requires expanding your focus outward, and when you express appreciation for the blessings in your own life, you are more likely to help others and extend those joyful feelings.

When it comes to self-esteem, being grateful lessens the habit of comparison and allows you to celebrate the talents and accomplishments of others. You are able to focus on how your life is supported by others, permitting you to feel more secure, and you are less likely to seek material goods to strengthen your self-image.

Gratitude also builds mental strength and helps you overcome disappointment, mistakes, and trauma with more resilience because you focus on the positives and recognize what you are thankful for, even when faced with setbacks. Pondering the circumstances in one’s life for which one is grateful appears to be a beneficial way of coping with both acute and chronic stressful events.

A sense of gratitude also makes us nicer, more sociable, and more optimistic human beings. As a result, it helps us make friends, deepens our existing relationships, and strengthens our marriage and family bonds. Having meaningful connections improves your emotional health, which, in turn, attracts more positive influences and people to your life, because when you’re happy, happy people want to be around you.

Physical Health Benefits of Gratitude

In recent years, science has explored the impact and health benefits of gratitude on physical well-being, sleep patterns, ailments, and more. Research on the relationship between gratitude and physical health is still developing, but studies so far suggest there may be a connection.

A study reported that people who are grateful and appreciate the importance of this value in their lives felt physically healthier and did not complain of as many aches and pains. Those who regularly express gratitude take better care of their health, exercise more often, and visit their doctors more regularly. All of these factors may likely tie to longer longevity and overall improved physical health.

In another study, more grateful participants reported fewer health problems, such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and respiratory infections.

Grateful people also appear to have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and get longer, more restful sleep. Since there is a strong link between emotional and physical health, when we feel better mentally, we simultaneously boost our physical well-being. One big question that is being further explored is whether gratitude causes good health or whether good health causes gratitude. While it most likely flows both ways, practicing gratefulness can help change lives for the better.

How to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude isn’t just for Thanksgiving, but looking at the cup as half-full and celebrating the positives does take practice for some of us. Giving thanks and expressing appreciation for the gifts in life is a natural human response, but in a fast-paced world where there is often a constant pursuit of gratification, gratitude often falls to the bottom of the list.

If it’s not your typical disposition, is it possible to count your blessings instead of your burdens? Absolutely. As with anything, cultivating an attitude of gratitude takes repetition and commitment, but adopting gratitude exercises into your daily life can provide substantial health benefits.

In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.” — Albert Clarke

Grateful living is supported by daily practices, tools, habits of mind, and behaviors that can be applied to many aspects of our lives. Even while dodging curveballs, when we approach life with gratitude and an open heart, we are better able to view challenges as opportunities that may just better our lives. There are infinite ways to show our gratitude to others and ourselves. Here are some proven ways to enhance your appreciation and gain a thankful attitude.

Keep a Journal

One of the easiest exercises is keeping a gratitude journal. While it’s a simple practice, it has extraordinary results. You can sit down every day, every week, or whenever you feel the need, and write down three to five things you are especially grateful for. Taking a moment out of your day to focus on all that brings you happiness, peace, and satisfaction will raise your spirits and can easily transform a negative attitude into a positive one. Many people find journaling especially beneficial before bed as it helps to put you in a positive state of mind before heading off to sleep.

Create a Gratitude Jar

A great activity to do with children, creating a gratitude jar is a fun way to celebrate the good in your life, from the big things to the small things. Whether it is a great cup of coffee, a devoted friend, or sharing a meal with your family, write down three things on a slip of paper that make you grateful and put it in your jar every day. Think of it as thank-you notes to the universe. You will be able to look back at your collection and be reminded of the many blessings in your life and receive a quick pick-me-up on the days you’re feeling down.

Take a Walk

Head outside for a gratitude walk. Whether it’s down the street, in a park, or around your own backyard, allow yourself to clear your thoughts and mindfully focus on what you appreciate about your life. You can also take in what is around you; the colors of the trees, the songs of the birds, the smell of the air. Express gratitude for everything you are experiencing in that very moment. Walking is therapeutic in itself, and coupled with a grateful state of mind, you are bound to come back feeling refreshed and energized.

Meditate

Combining mindful meditation with a gratitude exercise gives you a double dose of optimism and a mental health boost. Gratitude meditation is unique in that you focus on the people, things, and situations in your life that you are thankful for and bring you happiness, instead of paying attention to your breath. Spend time taking stock of all you are grateful for and embracing the feelings that recognition evokes.

Write a Note

There’s nothing better than sharing your gratitude with others. Handwriting a note to someone for whom you are grateful not only fosters cheerful feelings in you, but also touches another person’s life and passes that positivity on. You can even think outside your normal list of close family and friends; include your mail person, a friendly face at the supermarket, or a child’s teacher. You never know what a simple gesture can do in someone’s life or how it may inspire that goodwill to be passed on.

Make a Collage

Time to break out the scissors and glue. Gather images or photos of the things, people, and places that you are grateful for and create a collage that you can look at every day to be reminded of what makes you smile. If digital is more your speed, there are many online resources that allow you to create a collage that can be printed or applied as your desktop background. You will probably discover as the collage comes together that there is a great deal in your life to appreciate.

Assign an Object

Sometimes we need to be reminded during our busy days to pause and practice our gratitude exercise. Find an object that every time you look at it in your home or workplace will prompt you to stop and reflect on what you are grateful for. It could be a rock, a bracelet, a picture, or an inspirational quote. No matter what you choose, it will be a helpful reminder to express your gratitude and can inspire you to de-stress and recharge.

The science of gratitude is still young, but considerable progress has already been made in understanding how gratitude encourages better emotional and physical health and creates a happier you. Even if you currently struggle with adopting gratitude into your life, you can hone this skill through practice, repetition, and positive expectations. With every step, all you put in will come back to you tenfold and you will find yourself truly appreciating and celebrating life.

Eczema Remedies: The Causes, Symptoms and Best Treatments for Skin Relief

More than 30 million Americans have some form of eczema, a skin condition characterized by inflamed, red, itchy skin. In this article, we’re covering the types, the causes, the symptoms, and the eczema remedies for skin relief.

More than 30 million Americans have some form of eczema, a skin condition characterized by inflamed, red, itchy skin. Often used as an umbrella term to define a group of chronic, itchy skin rashes, eczema varies in appearance depending on the type of rash and its location. In some forms of eczema, blisters may also develop. Eczema symptoms can be intense for a period of time, calm down, and then surface again. Scratching can inflame the rash, and a clear fluid may ooze out of the affected area. In this article, we’re covering the types, the causes, the symptoms, and the eczema remedies for skin relief.

Types of Eczema

The National Eczema Association divides eczema into six types, based on their possible causes.

Atopic Dermatitis

The most common form of eczema, atopic eczema usually affects children by age 5, but adults may develop it as well. It shows up as dry, red, and itchy patches of skin usually on the face, scalp, hands, feet, inside the elbows, and behind the knees. Babies tend to develop a red rash on their cheeks and scalp. In severe eczema cases, patches may crack and become infected.

Atopic dermatitis is recurrent—it lasts for a period of time, then it goes into remission and comes back again. This type of eczema can be a lifelong condition, but in some cases, children might see improvements as they age.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis strikes when the skin comes into contact with an allergen or irritant that sparks swelling, itchiness, redness, and a burning sensation. Blisters can ooze and crust over.

Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when in contact with everyday items such as soap, cosmetics, and wind, and typically emerges on the hands and face. Allergic contact dermatitis is rarer, and results from continual exposure to a chemical, such as in a work environment or from perfumes in toiletries. Both irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis can cause what’s commonly called hand eczema in which scaly, dry, and itchy skin afflicts the hands.

Dyshidrotic Eczema

This type of eczema presents as itchy, fluid-filled blisters that develop under the skin on the hands or the feet. Over time, the affected patches can crack, exposing the skin to painful infection. Stress and other habits, such as frequent or long periods of contact with water and working with certain metals can aggravate or trigger an eczema flare. Dyshidrotic eczema is more common in women, and it usually occurs in spring and summer and in warmer climates.

Nummular Eczema

People with nummular eczema, or discoid eczema, have round or oval itchy and inflamed, swollen patches of skin, formed by pimples that become scaly. This type of eczema usually affects the torso, arms and legs, and it is more common in older men, but all ages and genders are susceptible. People with dry skin may be at risk of developing nummular eczema, especially in winter, and insect bites are a common cause.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

This chronic form of eczema afflicts areas of the body that contain many oil-producing glands, such as on the scalp—where it shows up as dandruff—or on the nose or upper back where it can manifest as yellow scales of reddened skin. Seborrheic dermatitis can be exacerbated by microorganisms like yeast, but isn’t caused by an allergy, unlike other types of eczema.

Men have a higher likelihood of developing seborrheic dermatitis than women do, and in infants it’s known as “cradle crap.” Those suffering from medical conditions that compromise the immune system, such as HIV or AIDs, or the nervous system also have a greater tendency towards developing seborrheic dermatitis.

Stasis Dermatitis

Also referred to as gravitational dermatitis, venous eczema, and venous stasis dermatitis, stasis dermatitis arises when blood flow is impaired and pressure builds up, particularly in the lower legs. The buildup pushes fluid out of the veins and into the skin, resulting in symptoms of eczema such as:

  • Ankle swelling
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Scaly skin
  • Itching
  • Oozing
  • Cracking skin
  • Infection

Eczema is a condition in which parts of your skin become red and itchy. Symptoms can be intense for a period of time, calm down, then surface again. More than 30 million Americans have some form of eczema. In this article, we’re covering the types, the causes, the symptoms, and the eczema remedies for skin relief.

Eczema Causes

The specific cause of this inflammatory condition is unknown, but experts believe that eczema is related to a variation in genes that affects the skin’s ability to protect the body from bacteria. This lack of protection leaves the skin exposed to environmental factors, irritants, and allergens that can cause inflammation. In some children, food allergies may instigate eczema. Having a close relative with eczema can also be a risk factor.

Common causes of eczema flare-ups include:

  • Wool
  • Sweat
  • Soaps
  • Dust
  • Laundry detergents
  • Cough, cold, flu
  • Contact with pet saliva

Eczema Remedies for Skin Relief

Before resorting to medications, you can try lifestyle and home remedies to prevent flares and reduce symptoms. Eczema can be persistent, and you might need to try different natural remedies to see results—but don’t get discouraged. Follow these tips for skin relief.

Moisturization

Keep your skin moisturized—choose a product that works well for you and is free of chemicals or allergens that can worsen your eczema. Apply the moisturizer at least twice a day, and after bathing while the skin is still damp.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a celebrated microbial and eczema treatment that can help to decrease staph bacteria and your risk of skin infections. Replete with beneficial fatty acids, coconut oil is a supreme skin and hair moisturizer. All it takes is a twice daily application of virgin coconut oil to damp skin.

Essential Oils

Essential oils, especially lavender essential oil, can help with mood and sleep management for eczema patients, as well as heal eczema symptoms. Dilute 10 drops of lavender essential oil in 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and gently apply to skin. To promote restful sleep, diffuse lavender essential oil and chamomile essential oil in an aromatherapy diffuser and breathe in the tonic as you sleep.

Take Warm Baths

A warm bath can do wonders for healing inflamed and sensitive skin. Limit baths and showers to 10 to 15 minutes. Add a sprinkle of baking soda or uncooked oatmeal to the bath water—soak  and then dry gently.

In addition to oatmeal baths, you can soak in a bleach bath for 10 minutes to reduce the bacteria on the skin. Dilute a 1/2 cup of household bleach in a 40-gallon bathtub filled with warm water. Don’t use concentrated bleach and never submerge the head.

Mild Soaps

Use soaps without dyes or perfumes to avoid substances that may irritate your skin. Superfatted and non-alkaline soaps are top choices.

No Scratching

Cover the itchy area if you can’t avoid scratching it. Using bandages helps protect the skin and prevents scratching.

Smooth Clothing

Avoid rough, tight, and scratchy clothing such as wool. Also, wear clothing that can help the skin breathe in hot weather or during exercise to prevent excessive sweating.

Humidifier

Hot, dry indoor air can make the itching worse. A humidifier can help add moisture to the air inside your home to help ease the itching associated with eczema.

Manage stress

Stress and anxiety can make symptoms worse. Consider using breathing techniques and meditation to reduce stress, as well as making appropriate lifestyle changes, such as adding more anti-inflammatory foods and fruits and vegetables to your diet, getting enough sleep, and removing stress-inducing factors as much as possible.

When to Seek Medical Treatment

If home eczema remedies do not reduce symptoms, you can try over-the-counter steroid creams such as hydrocortisone cream. Apply it no more than twice a day to the affected area after moisturizing to help the cream penetrate the skin. You can also try non-prescription allergy medicines such as cetirizine (Zyrtec) or fexofenadine (Allegra).

Calamine lotion, a mixture of zinc oxide and ferric oxide, is a top favorite for relieving the itch and blistery rashes of eczema.

There are a variety of specific creams that your doctor may prescribe to control itching, such as corticosteroid cream or antibiotic cream if your skin has a bacterial infection. For severe cases, the doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids, which can definitely subdue eczema symptoms but can’t be used for the long term because they can cause serious side effects.

For severe eczema, it can help to wrap the affected area with topical corticosteroids and wet bandages. Light therapy/phototherapy may also help, but it is not commonly used because of harmful effects such as premature skin aging and risk of cancer. During a light therapy session, skin is exposed to controlled amounts of natural sunlight, artificial ultraviolet A (UVA) or ultraviolet B (UVB). As with all eczema treatments, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of light therapy.