Can Gratitude Improve Your Health?
When we think about overall health, most often it’s exercise and nutrition that pops to mind. However, a strong mind is also necessary for long-term success, and one of the most beneficial things you can do to live a happier and healthier life is to be grateful for what you have.
Materialistic people often fail to be happy with what they possess, no matter the amount of success in life. The reason, according to ScienceDirect.com, is that they focus on what they do not have, which means they are less likely to be thankful, or overlook, what they do possess.
A big component to be thankful for in our life is our health. We often take it for granted and don’t think about it much until we lose it. But our health drives what we do, from our job, to or families, to our emotional outlook. It’s hard to underestimate how much better we perform and act when we feel good versus feeling tired, cranky and unwell. Ill health just sucks so much vibrancy out of everything we do, so much laughter and enthusiasm.
Studies show that grateful people also visit their doctors less often and live longer. Gratefulness helps us sleep better, control our blood pressure, reduces physical complaints and generally helps us be more alert, awake and alive. Why? Because grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise and a healthy diet. This increases determination, attention and enthusiasm (Emmons and McCullough, 2003).
“The wide variety of effects that gratitude can have may seem surprising, but a direct look at the brain activity during gratitude yields some insight. A study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) examined blood flow in various brain regions. They found that subjects who showed more gratitude overall had higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus, which controls a huge array of essential bodily functions and also has a profound influence on your metabolism and stress levels.” (PsychologyToday.com)
Stress is a big component of modern life and has been linked to heart disease and cancer, as well as untold doctor visits. So being more optimistic will boost our immune system and hep us feel better overall. (WebMD.com).
Further, Chinese researchers linked higher levels of gratitude with better sleep, lower anxiety and depression (Ng et al, 2012). From this evidence on brain activity it starts to become clear how improvements in gratitude could have such wide-ranging effects from increased exercise, and improved sleep to decreased depression and fewer aches and pains.
Positive emotions such as gratitude may be a dramatic departure from what we’ve been taught about how to get healthier, but the connection between gratitude and health actually goes back a long way in history. So please take a moment to be grateful for this article. It may just have a profound impact on your life by helping you focus on what’s worth living, in order to have a better life.