Gratitude and Health: A Direct Connection
How Can I Be More Grateful?
As we officially head into the holiday season, most of us have giving thanks on our minds—if for nothing else, the fact that we get to celebrate one more year of life. But did you know that developing a mindset of gratitude all year long has been associated with health benefits? That’s right, gratitude and health are linked!
Finding Gratitude in the Hard Times
Before we talk about gratitude and health, we must acknowledge the heartache and trauma that 2020 has brought for many of us. The feelings of sadness, anger, disappointment, grief, loss, and frustration are all valid, and seeking to cultivate gratitude in the midst of it all does not in any way invalidate any other emotions you have felt, or may feel again.
Your mental health is just as important as, and has a direct connection to, your physical health. If you’re struggling as we enter into the holiday season, please call 1-800-662-HELP (4357). You are not alone.
Why Gratitude and Health Go Hand In Hand
The circumstances of life can make it feel like there’s little to give thanks for some days. But developing an “attitude of gratitude” can help put the painful things, large and small, into perspective, and even improve our overall well-being.
Time and time again, research has shown that those who count their blessings are happier and healthier overall. A research study out of the University of Miami, showed that just writing down happy thoughts can have an impact on overall mental and physical well-being.
In the study, participants were asked to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.
One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.
The Mind-Body Connection
Another reason to give thanks? What you experience mentally can positively affect what you experience physically. Some studies have shown that those who express gratitude have better health. Therefore, they have less physical pain, less inflammation, lower blood pressure and more. People who are grateful also tend to eat better, sleep better, and exercise more. So, a positive outlook enables healthy behavior, it seems.
Gratitude can also help you recover from a health incident, like a heart attack, faster. How? By improving overall quality of life while reducing instances of depression and anxiety often experienced by those who have a coronary event.
Good Practices for Gratitude and Health
Like any habit, becoming more grateful takes practice. Taking a few small steps each day, or even each week, can help you become more mindful and aware of being thankful.
Start a gratitude journal. Each night, before bed, jot down two or three things you are thankful for. You can be thankful for anything. Think about a fresh cup of coffee or a sunset. Consider the roof over your head or your family’s health and safety. What you are grateful for is up to you! Keeping a gratitude journal can also provide a place to reflect and come back to good feelings when you’re feeling down.
Say thank you to someone. Sharing gratitude extends the feeling, and can help make gratitude more real to you. Send a text, a note, or make a call today. A sincere and heartfelt thanks is always appreciated. People who say thank you often experience greater depth of relationship whether with a romantic partner or a friend.
Meditate. A regular practice of mindfulness—noticing your thoughts and feelings, and being present in the moment—can help you develop gratitude for the little things such as your breath, stillness and quiet, for the parts of your body that function as they should. Eventually, you’ll become more mindful and aware of the good things around you, and be more at peace in your day to day, which can make you feel more grateful.
Connect with a spiritual community. You don’t have to have a particular religion or faith practice in order to be grateful, but those who participate in communities of faith often find the rhythms and practices associated with their faith give them a framework for counting their blessings. Being around others who are also grateful can be meaningful and rewarding, too.
We are grateful for the community of Electronic Caregiver—from our staff to our care partners to those who use our products and services. Let us know what you’re grateful for this holiday season—we’d love to hear from you!