Cultivate an Attitude for Gratitude

November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and research has demonstrated that individuals that have an ongoing tendency for gratitude experience numerous health benefits. 

  • Biochemical changes – Favorable changes in the body’s biochemistry include improved hormonal balance and an increase in production of DHEA, the “anti-aging hormone.”
  • Increased positivity – In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment: Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.  
  • Improved  immune function – Gratitude increases the production of IgA, an antibody which serves as the first line of defense against viruses and germs.
  • Emotional “compound interest” – The accumulated effect of sustained appreciation and gratitude is that these feelings are easier to recreate with continued practice. This is because experiencing an emotion reinforces the neural pathways of that particular emotion as it excites the brain, heart and nervous system.
  • Happier children—A 2008 study found that children who practiced grateful thinking had more positive attitudes toward school and their families (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons).

Why gratitude works:

According to research at the Institute of Heart Math, genuine feelings of gratitude can synchronize brain and heart rhythms, creating a body-wide shift to a scientifically measurable state called coherence. In this optimal state, the body’s systems function more efficiently, generating a greater balance of emotions and increased mental clarity and brain function.

Get started:

Instructions: Take a few short gratitude breaks throughout the day. During each break, take one or two minutes to breathe deeply and reflect on a few things in your life for which you are grateful for.

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