Express your Gratitude in February, for your Health’s Sake
Simple Approaches to Love your Health More
Gratitude Improves Physical Health
Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to further longevity. Research shows that when we think about what we appreciate, the parasympathetic or calming part of the nervous system is triggered and that can have protective benefits on the body, including decreasing cortisol levels and perhaps increasing oxytocin, the bonding hormone involved in relationships that make us feel so good.
Gratitude Improves Psychological Health
Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine. Additionally, gratitude toward others increases activity in social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable. Like the anti-depressant medications, gratitude increases circulating levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Thinking of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex. If you need more natural vitamin and mineral support for these neurotransmitters, a custom-tailored IV would be perfect for you! The nutrients are tailored to enhance the happy and calming neurotransmitters of your brain while feeding your body the nutrients it needs.
Grateful People Sleep Better
Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer. The University of Manchester in England was interested in the effect that gratitude might have on people’s snooze time. Their study included over 400 adults (40% of whom had sleep disorders) who filled out questionnaires about gratitude, sleep and thoughts that they had prior to falling asleep (“pre-sleep thoughts”). Gratitude was related to having more positive thoughts – and less negative ones – at bedtime. This phenomenon was consequently related to falling asleep faster and having more restful sleep.
When you make the choice to actively experience and express gratitude throughout the day, you are more likely to naturally have your experience filled with positive thoughts and emotions at bedtime. The way that you choose to fill your heart and mind throughout the day has a natural impact on your mood at bedtime. When you have spent the day filled with worry, fear, or sadness, these experiences try to come to bed with you. Just as you can choose to think thoughts filled with fear, you are equally capable of thinking thoughts filled with gratitude.
You don’t have to “have it all” to experience authentic gratitude. In fact, I would be willing to bet that you have much more than you consciously realize in this very moment. Learning to become mindful of pleasant experiences, to slow down and become mindful throughout the day, and take the time to count your blessings all adds up to a calmer heart and mind at bedtime.
Where to Start
If you tend to experience difficulty with falling asleep or getting restful sleep, consider making the commitment to actively cultivate an attitude of gratitude for the next week. Here are some ideas which you can begin to journal nightly to express your gratitude and love about:
- Your home. What memories does it hold? What type of protection does it give you?
- Your favorite hobby. What do you love about it? How does it make you feel?
- A favorite memory. Why does this memory stick out?
- Your free time. What do you like to do in your free time?
- Someone important. What role does this person fill in your life? How can you show him or her how grateful you are?