Picture this holiday scene: An enormous pile of wrapped presents sits under the giant tree in your living room. There is a pile of sugar cookies on the kitchen table, a gingerbread house, and a string of candy canes to hang over the fireplace mantel.

Let’s face it. This holiday scene isn’t the picture of “health.” But the other, and arguably more important, purpose of this holiday actually can contribute to your well-being: giving thanks

Taking time to appreciate the good things in your life has real, scientifically-backed benefits. Research demonstrates that people who show more gratitude tend to enjoy both more positive physical and psychological effects in their lives. The benefits can range from improving your heart health, to even helping you reach your financial goals, like saving up for a down payment on a home.  

If you’re not already convinced to show more gratitude every day, take a look at these 5 surprising ways giving thanks can improve your life.

1. It may be easier to reach your personal financial goals

Two of the most important ingredients for saving money are patience and self-control. In a study published by the Association of Psychological Science, researchers improved subjects’ financial patience by 12% by having them write for 5 minutes about something they were grateful for.

They concluded that thankfulness encourages patience and a rejection of instant gratification, in favor of long-term financial gain. And the quick exercise they used could even help you curb unnecessary spending and save for your long-term financial goals.  

2. Your psychological health may improve

Stop, take a deep breath, and think about all of the things you’re thankful for. This is the advice famed gratitude researcher Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. offers people to reduce their toxic emotions.

Emmons’ research demonstrates that being grateful can block harmful emotions like resentment, envy, and regret – which may significantly hinder personal happiness. And like many other experts, Emmons suggests that keeping a gratitude journal every day will help you appreciate everything good in your life. It can be that simple!

3. You’ll sleep better

Poor sleep affects almost every part of your health, both physical and mental. But what if a better night’s sleep took just 15 extra minutes out of your day?

A study led by psychologist Nancy Digdon says that grateful thoughts can lead to a great night’s sleep. The study examined 400 adults, who were instructed to write in a gratitude journal for 15 minutes before hitting the hay. The results? Nearly every participant in the study reported less worry and pre-sleep arousal, leading to an overall better night’s sleep.

4. Your overall health may improve

That’s right. Multiple studies have shown how an attitude of gratitude correlates with better health.

Exhibit A: Your heart. In a study of 186 men and women with heart damage, researchers found that those who kept gratitude journals “showed reductions in circulating levels of several important inflammatory biomarkers,” says study author Paul J. Mills. In laymen’s terms, those who were more thankful over the length of the study boasted better heart health.

But beyond your cardiac health, research shows that grateful people tend to have stronger immune systems, less stress, and a propensity for exercising more regularly. So give thanks today, and feel healthier tomorrow!

5. You’ll become more confident

There’s no better way to head into a challenge with confidence than by appreciating how far you’ve already come. A 2014 study put this theory to the test, and the results were pretty dramatic.

The study examined athletes’ performance in relation to how often they expressed gratitude for their coaches and mentors. Results showed that the more thankful the athlete, the greater his or her self-esteem and individual performance were.

These findings point to one clear conclusion: a grateful attitude can have a positive impact on your daily life.

So, to sleep a little better, feel a little healthier, or tackle your personal financial goals and finally buy that home, start by giving thanks ­– even after the sugar cookies are gone.

And if you need a little extra help reaching your homeownership goal, we’re always here to help. Find your Home Loan Specialist or call us at 1-800-700-9212 (you’ll thank yourself for it later!).

A great place to start is with your credit score. Check out our Credit 101 resource to learn what your credit score is and how you can improve it!

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