Self-Care and Gratitude: How They Go Hand in Hand

June 14, 2021

by Ms. Najma Khorrami, M.P.H., a global and public health professional.

With coronavirus affecting the global population and societies at large, the debacle begs the question, what are we doing to initiate, promote, and sustain self-care?

For many, the glass seems half empty. With loved ones tragically passing or loneliness seeping into our daily moods or responsibilities of kids overtaking many parents' schedules, there is reason to consider gratitude in our daily regimen of self-care.

Turning to gratitude can, in part, help us see the glass as half full.

Here are three ways gratitude promotes self-care:

1. Gratitude promotes self-care via healthier living.

A brief yet regular gratitude practice promises more benefits than may be expected. For example, college students who write about what they’re grateful for weekly for 10 weeks also exercise more than those who engage in other types of writing. A gratitude practice promotes exercise, better nutrition, better sleep, and not smoking, among other things.

2. Gratitude promotes self-care via selflessness and humility.

Self-care via gratitude holds benefits for social well-being as well. Among three hundred college students, those picked to write gratitude letters showed greater stimulation in the reward region of their brains when observing money given to charity. A regular gratitude practice, in turn, motivates us to seek kindness and generosity to reward our minds as well as to improve circumstances for others; the latter, improving the lives of others, makes us more selfless and humbler.

3. Gratitude promotes self-care via meaningful connection to others.

Another benefit for social well-being was seen among adults and college students in the U.S. and Korea asked to perform two gratitude activities: remembering a grateful experience or writing a gratitude letter. Other participants engaged in activities such as hiking or shopping. In contrast to the two groups, participants exercising gratitude felt more connected to others. (Loneliness, which is rampant due to COVID lockdowns, for example, might be tackled via gratitude practices.) Feeling socially connected in the time of COVID could go a long way to promoting self-care as well as societal care.

Countries are each addressing COVID health consequences, but what about the self-care and societal care that’s needed as well? Using a gratitude practice can address the needs of members feeling unfairly affected by the pandemic. Not only does gratitude help at this critical time, but gratitude is also useful to individuals and societies outside of times of public health crisis. Hopefully, we apply such a practice daily or weekly to reap its countless benefits.

What are some ways you can practice gratitude?

  • Use your social media platforms, or alternatively a journal, to list what you are grateful for weekly. Try to keep this up for over six weeks.
  • Say thank you in-person to someone you care about.
  • Say thank you to yourself before you go to bed, recounting three things you appreciate about yourself.
  • If possible, appreciate the love shown to you by others by showing it back in ways shown in 1 and 2 above.

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