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The health benefits of gratitude

Posted by Dr. Suzanne Koven  November 27, 2013 07:06 AM

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cornucopia.gif Sometime during Thanksgiving, between the first bite of stuffing and the last touchdown or mention of an old grudge, someone will suggest that everyone at the table name something they're grateful for. And some people will roll their eyes. But they shouldn't. It turns out that being grateful and, more specifically, expressing gratitude, is good for your health.

This article summarizes some recent research in the field of positive psychology. Health benefits of expressing gratitude include lessened aggression, anxiety, and depression and improved sleep. Writing down what you're grateful for, such as in a gratitude journal or a thank you note, seem to be particularly beneficial.

Here are five things I'm grateful for as I post my 101st "In Practice" blog:

1. Medical advances that have benefitted my patients as well as me and my family. As I wrote in my column this month, I grew up in an era where headlines about medicine were more about miracles than dysfunction. There are still lots of miracles.

2. Patients who allow me to share their personal stories in hopes that they'll help educate, validate and comfort others.

3. Readers who write me--sometimes from across the world--and share their stories, or offer comments and corrections.

4. Colleagues who email or stop me in the hospital halls to tell me they agree with what I've written. Or not.

5. The Internet. For all its many faults and misuses, it allows public and global conversations in which I feel privileged to participate.

I feel better already. What's on your list?

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Suzanne Koven, M.D. practices internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She writes a monthly column for the Globe's G Health section and her essays have appeared in the More »


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