Ahh, November, the month of Turkeys, dressing, cranberries and pumpkin pie. And a time to be Thankful.
But what does being Thankful, or Grateful really do for us?
Other than making us a more likeable person, there are scientific reasons why you should practice gratitude.
Not only this holiday season, but every day!
Here are 7 scientific reasons why you should be Grateful this Thanksgiving season:
1-Gratitude is good for our brains. In a 2009 Study from the National Institute of Health, researchers discovered that the hypothalamus is activated when we practice gratitude or practice acts of kindness. This is very important because the hypothalamus controls many important body functions including sleep, hunger, and thirst. We are also rewarded with a natural high as our brain is flooded with dopamine, the feel-good chemical. This makes us feel so good that we are motivated to repeat the act again and again. This means as you begin to practice gratitude you will be driven to find more things to be thankful for and when you are thankful it is difficult to be focused on the negative!
2-Gratitude can reduce anxiety and depression. Numerous studies have shown that the simple act of keeping a gratitude journal, writing, or sending thank you notes, can increase our long-term happiness by more than 10%. In a 2005 study it was shown that keeping a gratitude journal decreased depression by more than 30% for the duration of the study. In my practice, I have witnessed this over and over again! The amazing thing is not only do they experience less depression, and more happiness, but they have a decrease in aches, pains, and other unwanted symptoms!
3-Gratitude helps you win friends and influence people! In recent study, they found that thanking a new acquaintance for kindness rendered will increase odds that the relationship will continue. This can be as simple as thanking someone for holding opening a door, or as complex as offering to help with a project. Think about it, when someone shows appreciation for your offer of help, it causes gratitude from both parties which can lead to prolonged relationships. One practice I often recommend for some of my clients is to write down at least one thing about your partner that you are grateful for. Think about how beneficial this could be for your relationship!
4-Gratitude can improve sleep. A gratitude practice can improve sleep, reduce stress and even lower blood pressure. The act of keeping a gratitude journal was shown to reduce blood pressure by as much as 10%. In another study, McCraty and Colleagues in 1998, 23% of those studied who kept a gratitude journal showed a decrease in cortisol, one of the stress hormones. I write in my gratitude journal at night before I go to sleep. This allows my brain to relax, release stressors, and focus on the positive things that happened during the day. Just thinking about them can bring a smile to your face and a flood of feel good hormones.
5-Gratitude helps you “practice the pause.” People who are grateful are more likely to refrain from responding negatively even when someone is being negative towards them. In other words, by practicing gratitude, they experience more sensitivity and empathy and are less likely to seek revenge toward others. This allows them to take the time to pause, and to respond more objectively. We all could use some more of this!
6-Gratitude is good for your heart. A study at University of California San Diego School of Medicine by Dr. Paul Mills, found that people who practiced gratitude had better sleep, exercised more, ate better and had lower inflammatory markers which lead to better heart health. After discovering that people who reported more gratitude in their life had lower inflammatory makers than those who did not report the same, he performed a study with two groups of people. In one group he had them write down 2-3 things they were grateful 3-5 times during the week. After two months he retested and the group who kept the journal had a decrease in inflammatory markers, which is correlated with better heart health.
7-Gratitude increases energy and vitality. Many studies point to the fact that gratitude can make us healthier. People, who are optimistic are often more relaxed, have more energy and stronger immune systems. Whether it is from the dopamine that is released when we perform these acts, or if just the simple act of being less negative causes us to be healthier, it does not matter. The fact that it works!
If it is so simple, why don’t we all practice gratitude?
Multiple times a day we are bombarded with negative news releases, crazy drivers on the road, disasters, and here lately even mass shootings, which leave us wondering if there is any good in the world.
Let me assure you there is still good in the world and it is all around us every day. Each day there are tiny little miracles that happen whether it is a flower that blooms, or the sunshine warm on your back, there are many things to be grateful for all throughout the day.
If you want to make a change in the world, the best way is to start with one person at a time. So today start with yourself and make this Holiday Season a time of gratitude, joy and love! Here is a link to a 5 Day Gratitude Challenge to get you started!