Gratitude

Gratitude

Practicing gratitude is a powerful action for health and happiness

Have you ever heard the saying, that she who has forgotten the language of gratitude can never be on speaking terms with happiness?

When I take even a few moments out of my day to practice gratitude, I notice a shift in the quality of my thoughts and even the sensations in my body. Do you experience something like that, too?

Today, scientific research is finding that expressing gratitude has distinct, measurable and beneficial effects not just on your mood, but also on your hormone balance, the functioning of your nervous system, and even the quality of your digestion.

What are you grateful for today? Are there people who are blessings gifts to your life and heart?

Do you want to know what happens when you give thanks?

This article from the Food Revolution Network talks about the neuroscience of gratitude.

Thanksgiving can be about more that putting up with annoying
relatives, gorging on a dead bird, and passing out in a football-enhanced
stupor. In fact, Thanksgiving can be an opportunity to practice one of the most
powerful health-promoting actions that exist.

Giving thanks.

Gratitude, it turns out, makes you happier and healthier. If
you invest in a way of seeing the world that is mean and frustrated, you’re
going to get a world that is more mean and frustrating. But if you can find any
authentic reason to give thanks… anything at all that you’re grateful for in
your life or in the world and put your attention there, an overwhelming body of
research indicates you’re going to experience more joy, vitality, and inner
peace.

Gratitude doesn’t just make things feel better
– it also makes them get better. According to recent research, gratitude is good for your physical, emotional,
and mental health. People who express more gratitude have fewer aches and pains, better sleep, and stronger
mental clarity.

If Thankfulness Were A Drug… 

“If [thankfulness] were a drug,” Dr. P. Murali
Doraiswamy, head of the division of biologic psychology at Duke University
Medical Center, tells us: “it would be the world’s
best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ
system.”

As Dr. Doraiswamy explains, studies have shown how the
expression of gratitude leads to measurable effects on multiple body and brain
systems.

These include:

  • Mood neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine)

  • Reproductive hormones (testosterone)

  • Social bonding hormones (oxytocin)

  • Cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters
    (dopamine)

  • Inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines)

  • Stress hormones (cortisol)

  • Cardiac and EEG rhythms

  • Blood pressure, and

  • Blood sugar

Does Gratitude Really Cause Good Fortune?

When I heard all this, I was skeptical. What if people who
are fortunate, or who are particularly healthy, just feel more grateful? Does
gratitude really cause good fortune, or is it just a byproduct?

The answer surprised me, and it may surprise you, too.

In a study conducted by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., at the University
of California at Davis and his colleague Mike McCullough at the University of
Miami, randomly assigned participants were given one of three tasks. Each week,
participants kept a short journal. One group briefly described five things they
were grateful for that had occurred in the past week, another five recorded
daily hassles from the previous week that displeased them, and the neutral
group was asked to list five events or circumstances that affected them, but
they were not told whether to focus on the positive or on the negative.

Keep in mind that these groups were randomly assigned and
that nothing about their lives was inherently different, other than the
journaling they were doing.

The types of things people listed in the grateful group
included: “Sunset through the clouds;” “the chance to be alive;” and “the
generosity of friends.”

And in the hassles group, people listed familiar things
like: “Taxes;” “hard to find parking;” and “burned my
dinner.”

After ten weeks, participants in the gratitude group
reported feeling better about their lives as a whole and were a full 25 percent
happier than the hassled group. They reported fewer health complaints, and they
were now exercising an average of 1.5 hours more per week.

In a later study by Emmons, people were asked to write every
day about things for which they were grateful. Not surprisingly, this daily
practice led to greater increases in gratitude than did the weekly journaling
in the first study. But the results showed another benefit: Participants in the
gratitude group also reported offering others more emotional support or help
with a personal problem, indicating that the gratitude exercise increased their
goodwill towards others, or more technically, their “pro-social” motivation.

What’s The Brain Science Behind All This?

Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson puts it this way: “The neurons that fire together,
wire together… The longer the neurons [brain cells] fire, the more of them that
fire, and the more intensely they fire, the more they’re going to wire that
inner strength –- that happiness, gratitude, feeling confident, feeling
successful, feeling loved and lovable.”

And what’s going on in the brain leads to changes in
behavior. Grateful people tend to take better care of themselves and to engage
in more protective health behaviors, like regular exercise and a healthy diet.
They’re also found to have lower levels of stress. And lowered levels of stress
are linked to increased immune function and to decreased rates of cancer and
heart disease.

So it seems, you take better care of what you appreciate.
And that extends to your body, and also to the people around you.

Good For Your Relationships

Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners,
but showing appreciation can also help you win new friends, according to a 2014
study published in
Emotion.

The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them
more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger
for holding the door or you send a quick thank-you note to that co-worker who
helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead
to new opportunities.

In a 2012 study conducted by the University of Kentucky,
study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were found to have more sensitivity and empathy toward
other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.

But What About Tough Times?

As I was learning about this research, I was still a bit
skeptical. Life can at times be brutal. Sometimes just surviving can feel like
an accomplishment. Can you really feel grateful in times of loss?

Yes, you can.

In fact, findings show that adversity can actually boost gratitude. In a
Web-based survey tracking
the personal strengths of more than 3,000 American respondents, researchers
noted an immediate surge in feelings of gratitude after Sept. 11, 2001.

Tough times can actually deepen gratefulness if we allow
them to show us not to take things for granted. Dr. Emmons reminds us that the first Thanksgiving took place
after nearly half the pilgrims died from a rough winter and year. It became a
national holiday in 1863 in the middle of the Civil War and was moved to its
current date in the 1930s following the Depression.

Why would a tragic event provoke gratitude? When times are
good, we tend to take for granted the very things that deserve our gratitude.
In times of uncertainty, though, we often realize that the people and
circumstances we’ve come to take for granted are actually of immense value to
our lives.

Robert Emmons, Ph.D., writes“In the face of demoralization, gratitude
has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power
to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In
other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times.”

In good times, and in tough times, gratitude turns out to be
one of the most powerful choices you can make.

Putting Gratitude To Work For You

If you want to put all this into practice, here are some
simple things you can do to build positive momentum:

1) Say Grace: This Thanksgiving, or anytime
you sit down to a meal with loved ones, take a moment to go around and invite
everyone to say one thing they are grateful for. Even if you eat a meal alone,
you can take a moment to give thanks.

2) Keep A Daily Gratitude Journal: This
really does work. And yes, there’s an app for that.

3) Share The Love: Make it a practice to
tell a spouse, partner or friend something you appreciate about them every day.

4) Remember Mortality: You never know how long
you, or anyone you love, will be alive. How would you treat your loved ones if
you kept in mind that this could be the last time you’d ever see them?

 

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Have a Healthy Day!,

.

Rod Stone
Author,
Publisher and Founder of r Healthy Living Solutions, LLC,  Supplier of Healthy Living information and products to improve
your life.

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