Dr. Bonnie Verhunce
Why Being Thankful Benefits Your Health - 3/26/2020
Can being grateful actually make you healthier especially during this time of heightened stress? Several studies say yes. In fact, there is a great deal of evidence that shows being thankful benefits your health both physically and mentally. Researchers have found that an attitude of gratitude helps you have a stronger immune system, a healthier heart, more energy, and a happier outlook on life.
The Science of Being Thankful
When you are grateful, just like any other emotion, it affects your outlook. Gratitude is particularly powerful when used as a way of viewing the word, of interpreting and perceiving your life. There are other positive emotions that come attached to gratitude and these work in the body to provide powerful physical health benefits.
According to research, the simple act of thinking about the things you are grateful for, causes the parasympathetic nervous system, the part that promotes calm and peaceful feelings, to be triggered. This can cause chemical reactions such as increasing oxytocin (the hormone that helps with bonding in relationships and increases good feelings) while decreasing cortisol (the stress hormone that can cause an increase in inflammation and a variety of health issues).
Studies on Gratefulness
Several studies have been done over the past several years exploring the connection between gratitude and health. One study published in the European Scientific Journal in June 2014, drew a direct line between gratitude and coping with PTSD. It found that the more gratitude increases in a person the less psychological distress decreases. A research report published in June 2017, found that gratitude could be a viable means for helping ease fibromyalgia symptoms.
In November 2016, the American Heart Association published information on a study that was conducted on heart patients who had asymptomatic heart failure. The researchers measured evaluated their levels of gratitude and found that the patients who were more grateful slept better, experienced less anxiety, and had decreased depression. These people also had healthier hearts and lower levels of inflammation. The lower levels of inflammation, as well as a more positive outlook, also help patients better manage pain.
6Tips for Being more Grateful
Even if gratitude does not come naturally to you, it is possible to learn it. It can become a habit that can be cultivated and incorporated into everyday life. Try these tips for developing gratefulness in your life.
1. Think about being grateful. The more you think about it, the more you will find that you are grateful.
2. Avoid comparing up. There will always be someone who has more than you do or is more advantaged. Seeking them out and ruminating on what you don’t have or don’t have enough of is a recipe for discontent, anger, and frustration.
3. Keep a gratitude journal. Write down the things you are thankful for and this will not only serve as a reminder but it will also help to develop the habit of being grateful.
If you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for, find just one thing and focus on that. Gradually add things you are grateful for as you will find them.
4. Change your perspective. When something doesn’t go your way, look for the positives in it. This can be internal or external. How did or will you grow because of that situation? What did you gain because of those circumstances?
5. Change your thinking. Choose positive language and banish negative language from your vocabulary. Don’t allow negativity to color your life experiences.
6. Say it out loud. Use your voice and tell people that you are grateful. Tell them you appreciate them, that you are grateful for things. Let yourself hear your positive words of gratitude so that it can take hold of you and become a part of who you are.
Being thankful makes you a healthier, happier person, so take some time to find several things that you’re grateful for (or a lot!). You’ll love the benefits.