In just two days, we embark on an amazing journey – are you ready for the Gratitude Project? I am beyond excited for this day of gratitude and I hope you’ll join me! All it takes is 10 minutes at the start of each hour to phone in and practice important exercises that will really help you feel more gracious and grateful! Take a chance and sign up!
This afternoon’s guest writer is none other than Lynn Smith! As a health guru, she has a unique spin on gratitude – and it’s one that will help your health! Lynn is a women’s weight loss expert, providing weight loss programs that work to shift a woman’s beliefs about what is possible for herself. To receive tips for weight loss, articles and guidance, subscribe to her newsletter “Vibrant Living for Women” at www.healthcoachteam.com.
Gratitude: How This Simple Feeling Improves Health
By Lynn Smith
What if there was a simple way to improve your health that didn’t require dieting or exercise? Would you do it? There is and that simple way is expressing gratitude.
New research is showing that there is scientific evidence that gratitude produces health benefits. Two foremost researchers in the field of gratitude are psychologists Robert Emmons at the University of California at Davis, and Michael McCullough, at the University of Miami.
Emmons and his colleagues at the University of California at Davis are among the pioneers in research on gratitude, which is part of a larger movement called positive psychology. Positive psychology studies health-promoting behavior and the pleasurable parts of life rather than focusing on illness and emotional problems.
They found that people 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 difficulties or neutral life events.
Those who kept gratitude lists were also more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals. Young adults who practice daily gratitude had higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to the group that focused on difficulties. The research keeps adding to the list of benefits that come from practicing gratitude.
The reason for this is because when we think about someone or something we really appreciate, and experience the feeling that goes with the thought, the parasympathetic—the calming-branch of the autonomic nervous system— gets triggered. The electromagnetic heart patterns of volunteers tested became more coherent and ordered when they activated feelings of appreciation.
Another study at the University of Connecticut found that gratitude can have a protective effect against heart attacks. While studying people who already had one heart attack researchers found that those patients who saw benefits and gains from their heart attack, such as becoming more appreciative of life, experienced a lower risk of having another heart attack.
There is evidence that when we practice bringing attention to what we appreciate in our lives, more positive emotions emerge, thus causing alterations in heart rate variability. This may not only relieve hypertension but reduce the risk of sudden death from coronary artery disease. According to Emmons, those who practice grateful thinking “reap emotional, physical and interpersonal benefits.”
How can you put this to use in your life?
It can be as simple as a “Thank you” to someone who did something for you. But if you truly want to harness this power in your life make a daily habit of writing down things you are grateful for. Emmons says the act of writing “allows you to see the meaning of events going on around you and create meaning in your own life.”
Set aside some time, maybe at the end of your day, to reflect and record. You may even want to buy a special journal to use.
Create a space and make this a daily ritual.