Did you know that appreciation can lower our stress hormone, which in turn keeps our immune systems strong and blood sugar levels normal? If that’s the case, then what else can being thankful do for our bodies?
In this post, we’re going to look at how gratitude impacts our immunity and overall health. Keep reading to find out not only how gratitude impacts your health, but how to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness in your day to day life.
Close your eyes and let your mind wander back to a moment in time when someone did something to make you smile–maybe they gave you a compliment, grabbed your hand, gave you a gift, or made you laugh. Do you feel that warm fuzzy feeling? Does it make you feel good? Of course it does!
In that moment, you were most likely feeling happiness, thankfulness, or gratefulness, and it felt good. As you know, this kind of feeling can positively impact your outlook for an entire day or longer, which is mentally and emotionally beneficial to your health. However, you may not realize that gratitude can also be physically beneficial to your health.
In a study conducted at the Institute of HeartMath Research Center in California, positive emotions such as gratitude and appreciation were found to significantly lower cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is called the “stress hormone,” and too much of it in our bodies can result in lower immune systems and higher blood sugar levels.
Yes–you read that right. Gratitude CAN actually build immunity in your body. If being grateful can do that, what else is a gracious attitude capable of? Take a look at a few things a spirit of thanksgiving can do for you and in you this holiday season.
Seven Reasons You Should Practice Gratitude
Gratitude Enhances Your Moods
Grateful people tend to have less anxiety, depression, stomach aches and headaches, as well as lower blood pressure. In fact, in his book Gratitude Works!, psychology professor Robbert A. Emmons, Ph.D. says that gratitude can result in up to a ten percent reduction in systolic blood pressure. Additionally, Emmons cites that grateful people’s dietary fat intake is decreased by up to twenty percent, causing them to have more energy and greater optimism.
Gratitude Fights Disease
A daily practice of gratitude can slow down some effects of neurodegeneration that often occur as we age. Neurodegeneration is responsible for diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s.
Gratitude Gives You Better Rest
Practicing gratitude 10-15 minutes before you sleep can help you get a better night’s sleep. One way to do this is through meditation, prayer, or deep breathing. Try finding a quiet, dark or dimly lit spot and taking a few moments to be thankful for all the good things in your life.
Gratitude Promotes Mental and Physical Health
Thankful people are more likely to take care of themselves physically and mentally. This could mean engaging in more protective health behaviors and maintenance than non-grateful people, getting more regular exercise, or eating a healthier diet, among other things.
Gratitude Creates Bonds
Gratefulness can create a sense of calm and security in relationships. This may be because of an increased production of oxytocin, which is sometimes referred to as the bonding hormone.
Gratitude Enhances Brain Development
The changes in our bodies following acts of gratitude are long lasting. Studies have looked at MRI scans of brains after an act of gratitude has been accomplished. These scans show biological shifts that last much longer than a brief moment, and there are actual changes in the brain that follow after carrying on a task of gratitude that last even after the task is done.
Gratitude Makes You Resilient
Having a regular practice of gratitude can cultivate more resilient children and adults. This is because being happy where you are can be a good launching pad for success in general–because you begin at a higher baseline than a non-thankful person.
Five Ways to Grow in Gratitude This Holiday Season
Knowing thankfulness is obviously really good for your health, so how can you cultivate this regular practice of gratitude if you don’t already? Even if you do have some sort of habit of thankfulness, what are some ways you can grow in gratitude? Here are a few ideas:
Write Down What You are Grateful For
Every single day for thirty days, write down at least three things you are thankful for. Be specific–there is value in those details! Keep these recordings in a notebook or journal, and fill it up with the things you are thankful for each day! If three things a day seems overwhelming, choose a number that works for you. In one study, those who listed just five things weekly that they were grateful for reported fewer health problems and a greater optimism than those who did not.
Be Intentional In Your Practice Of Gratitude
Plan hands-on activities that promote thankful thinking with friends, family or your kids. This could be volunteering together, writing thank you notes, or talking to your people about who and what you appreciate and why. Parents, if we do not take the time as adults to do this in front of our kids, they are not going to know to do this.
Focus Your Attention Outward
Gratitude is defined as your attitude toward both the outside world and yourself. If you are more aware of the positives in your life, you will tend to focus your attention outside of yourself. Remember, thankfulness is merely a word–gratitude is shown in acts.
“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”Henri Frederic Amiel
Be Grateful For What You Have
This is a good one. It’s not how much you have, but how you feel about what you have that makes the difference. If you are struggling to find things you are grateful for, take a moment to think about people you’ve encountered who are less fortunate than you. Maybe they struggle financially or medically. Maybe they walk everywhere because they don’t have a vehicle or who sleep in the cold because they are homeless. Are you feeling more grateful now?
Reframe Situations As Positive
When you find yourself in a challenging situation, don’t allow yourself to get upset. Oftentimes, it isn’t the situation itself that is upsetting, but rather how you perceive it. When you are complaining about life’s hassles, can you mentally flip the switch to try to frame things differently? For example, if you find yourself bummed over missing an opportunity, perhaps a positive spin on the situation may be realizing that you have more time to direct towards something else in your day.
With Thanksgiving approaching, we often see numerous thankful posts scattered amidst our social media feeds. Can you carry that spirit in your heart even after November rolls into December, and as a new year dawns? If so, you might see that the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional impact can change your life.
Holiday blessings to each of you from Insight Thermography of Oklahoma! May you all wake up each day and say, in the words of Maya Angelou– “This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before,” and be grateful.