Here in the US, every November we begin thinking about the things we are grateful for. We celebrate Thanksgiving, gather with family and friends, eat plenty of food and focus on what we are thankful for. But practicing gratitude is something that should be done every day. It should be practiced for more than one day or even one month out of the year.
Let’s face it, we live in a society that likes to complain…a lot! Just spend some time online and you will see plenty of evidence of just how much people like to complain. But being a negative person doesn’t just make a person difficult to be around. Focusing on the negative is harmful to your health. Holding onto emotions such as anger, shame, fear, jealousy, and sadness for long periods of time creates stress in the body. Over time, that stress becomes chronic. And when chronic stress occurs, symptoms follow eventually leading to chronic illness.
We talk about chronic stress a lot here. That’s because we see the impact that stress has on every client that comes to work with us. We help them overcome the damage that has been caused to their health from years and even decades of chronic stress. So we understand just how harmful stress truly is. And our thoughts and emotions do play a big part in creating the chronic stress that is wreaking havoc on the health of so many.
We don’t often think about how our thoughts and emotions impact our physical health. But there is a strong connection between the two. Poorly managed emotions have been connected to health issues such as heart problems, lowered immune system function, digestive problems, and so much more.
But if holding onto negative emotions regularly damages health, what happens when we take a positive emotion, such as gratitude, and practice that regularly? Practicing gratitude regularly can benefit your health!
Here are four ways that your health can benefit from gratitude.
We know how important sleep is. That is why it is a part of the D.R.E.S.S. protocol that our practitioners use with clients. The body simply cannot repair itself if you are not getting good sleep regularly. Studies suggest that those people who choose to focus on things that they are grateful for struggle less with insomnia caused by racing negative thoughts. That can help to improve sleep.
Lower stress levels
For years, studies have shown us that gratitude reduces stress levels and boosts general feelings of well-being. But it also has an impact on the extreme stress seen in traumatic events. A 2006 study looked at the role of gratitude In Vietnam veterans. Those who regularly practiced gratitude showed lower levels of PTSD than those who did not. Being grateful daily can help trauma sufferers be more resilient to stress.
The body naturally defends itself against infection, toxins, or injury by creating inflammation. But when inflammation becomes chronic it can contribute to heart disease, digestive problems, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and cancer. But a recent study found that women who practiced gratitude showed fewer inflammatory responses in the body. So gratitude may help to reduce or prevent inflammation. And that, in turn, may help lower instances of other chronic illnesses.
Lowers depression and anxiety
When you regularly practice gratitude, your brain releases dopamine and serotonin, two of the feel-good chemicals of the brain. The release of these chemicals helps to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. They are the body’s natural antidepressant and anti-anxiety chemicals. The benefits of gratitude on depression are cumulative. Many people who focus on being grateful for 30 days experience a significant decrease in depression and anxiety symptoms. So the benefits grow the longer you practice.
What can you do to practice gratitude?
Two very simple things you can do daily can help you cultivate a regular gratitude practice.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Each day write several things that you are grateful for that day. Take time at the end of the week and review all you wrote down for the week. Take time to feel the gratitude for each thing you’ve written.
- Tell the people in your life that you are thankful for them. You can physically tell them or send them a letter or note to express this.
Being grateful each day will enhance your emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Try it today and see how you feel. Your body will thank you!