As we approach the end of the year, it is natural that we reflect on what has passed and what we hope for the future. Most of us also take the time to give thanks to the people, things, moments, and actions that we appreciate throughout the year. This spirit of gratitude helps us build upon the season of joy, giving, and peace, and we wish we could keep these feelings with us all year round. So, what if we could?
Much research has been done on the power of gratitude
and the benefits to our overall health. Studies show that taking about 15 minutes daily to practice gratitude can improve our mental and physical wellness. While not an independent solution to the things that ail us, including gratitude as part of your health regimen could have a significant, long-term impact on your well-being.
Healthy Benefits of Gratitude & Appreciation
It has been proven many times that there is a link between practicing gratitude and healthier outcomes. While that connection still needs to be explored to fully understand the correlation, we know that taking the time to be thankful can lead to more positive social relationships, increased motivation, and improved overall satisfaction in your daily life. Other health benefits of practicing gratitude include:
- Decrease Depression – Research shows that higher levels of gratitude reduce common symptoms of depression like anxiety and hopelessness. Practicing gratitude can be used as a coping mechanism to break negative thought patterns, helping individuals to focus on the present rather than past grief and possible future mistakes.
- Alleviate Stress – When you are stressed, you trigger your body’s fight-or-flight response, which engages your nervous system, causing your heart to race, muscles to tighten, and adrenaline to jump. However, taking a moment to be thankful also has a physiological response: your blood pressure decreases, your heart rate slows down, and your parasympathetic nervous system relaxes your body, aiding rest and digestion.
- Better Heart Health – Some studies have revealed that grateful thinking and an optimistic mindset can positively impact the biomarkers associated with heart disease, lessening your risk of a heart condition. Additionally, anxiety and depression can increase your blood pressure and breathing, putting more stress on your heart, while practicing gratitude and your body’s answering response have the opposite effect.
- Improve Physical Health – Grateful thinking can slow the impacts of neurodegeneration – the loss of functioning nerve cells – and can help reduce inflammation. When we practice thankfulness, research has shown that our bodies release oxytocin, a hormone that lowers blood pressure, stimulates blood vessels, and shields the heart. Furthermore, grateful people are more likely to eat healthy and exercise and are less likely to abuse alcohol or drugs.
- Supports Sleep – All of these benefits combined can help you improve your sleep health, creating a positive cycle where you feel refreshed and better motivated when you wake up the following day.
Healthy Tips for Practicing Gratitude
You may think gratitude is a personality trait, but it is not. Our brains are fantastic problem solvers, helping us figure out how to survive and thrive in the world around us, but not necessarily to appreciate its wonders. That’s where practicing gratitude comes in. Like learning to walk or riding a bike, we have to practice and build up our muscles, until the action becomes natural. Below are some helpful gratitude exercises that you can add to your daily routine:
- Acknowledge Gratitude. Saying thank you can sometimes be a reflex. When thanking someone, take a few moments to think about what it is you are grateful for.
- Gratitude Time. This is your 15 minutes in the day to reflect on what you are grateful for. You can write it down in a gratitude journal, jot it down on a sticky note that you stick to your fridge or mirror, or find a gratitude buddy with whom you can share your appreciation.
- Share Gratitude. Send a thank you card; call someone you appreciate and let them know; and do not just share what you are thankful for around the turkey dinner. Make it a tradition at every family meal.
- Practice Self-Appreciation. This challenge may be the most uncomfortable, but it can reap major benefits. Each morning, take a moment to look in the mirror and list three to five good things about yourself.
- Celebrate Happy Moments. Take time to recognize the moments that make you happy and proud, whether it be a success at work, a stranger holding open a door, or that refreshing breeze on a humid day. There are many moments to be thankful for when you take the time to look.
Each day you practice gratitude, you are helping strengthen the neural pathways in your brain, care for your heart, and improve your mood and self-esteem to become a healthier version of you.
How Does Practicing Gratitude Impact Health During the Holidays?
Practicing gratitude during the holidays is more than just a festive tradition. It can have a significant impact on our health and well-being. Research shows that gratitude can reduce stress levels, enhance mental resilience, and improve quality of sleep. By incorporating healthy lifestyle tips for holidays, such as expressing gratitude, we can foster a positive mindset, build stronger relationships, and ultimately promote better health during this joyous season.
Family Integrative Medicine Has Much to Be Grateful For
At Family Integrative Medicine, we are thankful each day for the warm welcome and acceptance we have received from our community. We cherish the opportunity to serve you each day and are honored that you have put your trust and faith in our team to help improve their quality of life. We appreciate our team of compassionate, knowledgeable experts who are united and committed to working collaboratively for our patients. Finally, we are grateful for you, and we are excited to continue this health journey with you.