Being grateful could mean better health

ANN ARBOR Sure, being grateful feels good, but it can also affect your physical and mental health, according to researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of California, San Francisco.

A new study examined cell phone data from users in the US, Australia, Hong Kong and India to track how gratitude affects individual wellbeing.

Using the mobile phone app MyBPLab, the researchers were able to measure the blood pressure and heart rate of more than 4,800 participants with embedded sensors. They found that people who were more grateful had both lower heart rates and blood pressure, and valued other people more.

The research team also found that optimism also improved physical and mental health, including more positive reflections and expectations, and better quality sleep.

In the past, studies of optimism and gratitude typically included brain scans or laboratory visits to collect data.

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In this study, participants wore an arm cuff on which the user calibrated the sensor on their phone to use optical sensors to detect changes in blood pressure.

From March 15, 2019 to December 8, 2020, the participants followed health behavior such as exercise, daily expectations and sleep, stress and thoughts three times a day. They also rated 12 thought processes such as “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best” and “I have so much in life to be thankful for”.

According to the results of the study, gratitude helped people highlight the positive aspects every day, while optimism reduced the negative aspects every day.

“Gratitude also guides people towards others and the benefits they bring to them, while optimism can direct people towards themselves when they focus on their own specific future,” said the study co-author and assistant professor at the Department of UM Psychology, Amie Gordon, said in a press release.

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In addition, optimism helped predict the frequency and intensity of stress and the quality of sleep better than gratitude.

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