If you’ve been considering adding an extra set of reps to your workout routine to prepare for the upcoming holiday season, scientists from the University of California say you may want to think about substituting thank-yous for tuck jumps instead.

In a recent study conducted by assistant professor of psychology Laura Redwine, a group of about 200 people with varying heart conditions were given a gratitude survey to fill out right before having their blood taken. The results showed that those who responded positively and with more gratitude on their surveys had lower levels of inflammatory proteins in their blood — an indicator of heart recovery.


Additionally, some participants were asked to keep a gratitude journal over the course of eight weeks. Before bed, they were to write out three things they were grateful for that day. Those folks who literally counted the reasons why they were thankful each day had a higher “heart rate viability” (read: strength) than the control group.

While no one has quite worked out the causation part of the link, Redwine’s colleague, Dr. Robert Emmons, believes that the connection is a stress-related one. Think about it: fear, anxiety, stress, anger — these can trigger as many physical changes as they do mental ones, right? By practicing gratitude regularly, you’re inhibiting those negative reactions from ever getting a chance to take hold.

That part of it isn’t news. We know by now that when we reduce our stress, we increase our health (hello, exercise endorphins!) but to know that gratitude has such a profound effect on your physical well-being is a fascinating and encouraging one. Plus, it costs way less than weekly barre classes.

Basically, counting your blessings keeps your metaphorical heart full and your physical heart healthy — so be sure to continue your thankfulness long after you’ve eaten the last of the leftover turkey sandwiches and turned the last bits of cranberry sauce into a bourbon mixer (we have to indulge sometimes, right?!).

Tell us: How do you practice gratitude on the daily? Share in the comments below!