“It doesn’t matter if the glass is half empty or half full. Be thankful that you have a glass and grateful that there’s something in it.” – Unknown
Stop for a minute. Take 1-2 minutes right now and think about a couple things that you are thankful for today…It can be anything simple from having time to drink coffee, the wifi you are connected to, or more emotionally provoking things such as the health of family and friends, or the opportunity to have a fulfilling career, or just waking up on time this morning.
Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at UC Davis, is one of the leading experts in the science of gratitude. He states gratitude can affect our physical and mental health, including that in can “lower blood pressure, improve immune function, facilitate efficient sleep, reduce lifetime risk for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders.” Practicing gratitude can positively affect behaviors, such as by “engaging people to exercise more,” practice “better dietary behaviors,” and reducing people’s likelihood of smoking and abusing alcohol. Gratitude creates a positive feedback loop due to the neurotransmitter dopamine, which help control the brain’s reward and pleasure center. Although this may sound too good to be true, consider the following additional findings.
Physical Health Benefits
Mental Health Benefits
· There was a 7% reduction in inflammation in patients with congestive heart failure who practice gratitude.
· Dietary fat intake is reduced by as much as 25% when people practice gratuity using a gratitude journal.
· Grateful people have 16% lower diastolic blood pressure and 10% lower systolic blood pressure compared to those less grateful.
· Grateful people have lower levels of Hemoglobin A1C (9-13 %), a laboratory marker of glucose control.
· Studies shows that these effects last in the brain for as long as three months after writing in a gratitude journal.
· Gratitude can decrease cortisol (stress hormone) by as much as 23%.
· Gratitude is related to a 10% improvement in sleep quality in patients with chronic pain, 76% of whom had insomnia, and 19% lower depression levels.
· 2 weeks of writing in a gratitude journal produced sustained reductions in perceived stress (28%) and depression (16%) in health-care practitioners.
· Simple activities such as counting blessings and gratitude letter writing reduced the risk of depression in at-risk patients by 41% over a six-month period.
· Writing gratitude letters to someone reduced feelings of hopelessness in 88% of suicidal inpatients and increased levels of optimism in 94% of them.
· The practice of writing down what you are grateful for showed improvements in mental health when compared with psychotherapy only or psychotherapy plus expressive writing.
If you are intrigued by any of those benefits, you might be wondering how you can realistically incorporate these practices into your own life. Here are some quick tips on how to go about doing that:
- Write down what you are grateful for
- At the end of the day, write something that left you smiling or happy about. Go old school with a pen and paper or use an app!
- Do one act of kindness
- Say thank you to someone who opens the door for you, or (if possible) open the door for someone else and be grateful that you are healthy enough to do so.
- Get your children, family, friends involved!
- Before meals, have each family member take turns saying what they are thankful for.
- Show some gratitude to your partner – you may be surprised that your partner will be more responsive to your needs, and you may feel more satisfaction with the relationship.
- Start the day with a compliment to your partner, or end the day with a sincere thank you.
- Be a good boss or colleague
- Saying thank you at work goes a long way! It increases sense of self-worth and confidence while increasing trust. This is what teamwork is about!
Now that New Year is coming, what better time to get started on a good habit! Once you start feeling the benefits of gratitude, you’ll want to continue doing it. The simple and humble practice of being grateful is now supported by a growing body of scientific research, and it only takes a few minutes each day.