The Science of Gratitude

The Science of Gratitude

For many, November is more than a month, it’s often associated with... you guessed it. The holiday season. Regardless of if you celebrate Thanksgiving, November marks a period of reflection. While this time is often associated with happiness, for some, this season has been shown to increase feelings of sadness, anxiety, or depression. In fact, 64% of individuals who suffer from depression and anxiety during other times of the year, report their symptoms to worsen during the holidays.[ 1 ]

Reference Lab

Nov 24, 2020

This fact is overwhelmingly apparent this year when spending time with family is made difficult due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, high-risk loved ones, or social distancing requirements. Whether you are someone who can’t wait for Thanksgiving dinner or someone who can’t wait for this season to be over, we’re here to give you scientifically-backed ways to improve your mental, emotional, and potentially even your physical health during this season.

"When an individual practices gratefulness consistently, this has been shown to lead up to a 23% reduction in cortisol levels."[5]

Gratitude is many things, but easy to define is not one of them. It can be an emotion, an attitude, a virtue, a habit, a trait, or even a coping response. Every year, on the fourth Thursday of November, it wouldn’t be uncommon to walk into someone’s home and see a family sitting around the table saying what they are grateful for. Though it may just seem like a cute tradition required before digging into the big meal, psychologists have shown this small act of gratefulness can have some serious health benefits, all year long.

OneFactWhile cortisol is a hormone that is largely known for triggering our fight-or-flight response, it has also been shown to play a role in skin health. High cortisol levels are associated with thinning skin and decreased water retention ability.[6]

Scientists have shown that the feeling of gratitude is associated with

  • Improved sleep quality [ 2 ]
  • Reduced blood pressure [ 2 ]
  • Lower levels of inflammation [ 3 ]
  • Decreased amount of doctor visits [ 4 ]

If you’re anything like us, you are asking yourself how in the world could practicing gratefulness do all of this. We did some digging and here’s what we found. When an individual practices gratefulness consistently, this has been shown to lead up to a 23% reduction in cortisol levels.[5] Cortisol is a hormone that is often referred to as the “stress hormone.” While it is critical for our survival, it is also extremely regulated because when we produce too much (or too little), it can have some serious adverse effects.

Before you get too excited, there are a few catches. Saying what you are grateful for once a year on Thanksgiving likely won’t lead to these positive health outcomes. Instead, scientists have found that the real benefits come from a consistent state of gratefulness, and more so when people physically write down what they are grateful for.[4] The second caveat we found during our research is the idea of the chicken or the egg. Scientists are doing their best to understand if healthier people are inherently more grateful, or does being grateful cause you to become healthier.

At OneSkin, we are true believers in the idea that longevity doesn’t just mean just focusing on your physical health. Science is continuously proving that it is about the trifecta of your mind, body, and spirit. Not only will the practice of gratitude bring a smile to your face (and maybe even the faces around you), but it will allow you to focus on your mental and emotional health, with potential positive benefits on your physical health. Why not give it a try?

  • [1] Mental Health Meets Holiday Blues, NAMI 2012
  • [2] Jackowska, M., et al. Journal of Health Psychology, 2015
  • [3] Redwin, L., et al. Psychosom Med, 2016
  • [4] Emmons, R. A., & Mishra, A. Designing the future of positive psychology, 2012
  • [5] McCarty, R. et al. Integr Physiol Behav Sciences, 1998
  • [6] Ying, C., et al. Inflammation Allergy Drug Targets, 2014
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