Cultivating a grateful state of mind relieves pain, increases emotional and physical health. Expressing thanks may be one of the simplest ways to feel better.
Gratitude science has grown over the years.
The research shows wide-ranging benefits such as; improving overall health, increasing longevity, resiliency, better dealing with adversity, and building strong relationships.
Look outside of yourself
A thankful appreciation for what we receive, whether tangible or intangible is an important habit. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves.
As a result, an attitude of gratitude helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals. For example connecting to other people, nature, or a higher power.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.
Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions. They then relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
According to Loretta Breuning, PhD, California State University, there is a strong correlation between unhappiness and unhealthy habits. Conversely, positive rituals enhance happiness.
The neural correlates of gratitude study, for the NIH, revealed that ratings of gratitude correlated with brain activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex. Those results provide a window into the brain circuitry for moral cognition and positive emotion that accompanies the experience of benefiting from the goodwill of others.
Researchers Emmons and Michael McCullough define gratitude as a two-step process: 1) “recognizing that one has obtained a positive outcome” and 2) “recognizing that there is an external source for this positive outcome.”
“Setting aside time on a daily basis to recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable life theme of gratefulness,” stated Emmons, editor-in-chief, The Journal of Positive Psychology and author of Gratitude Works: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity and Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.
RESEARCH DEMONSTRATES BEING APPRECIATIVE & THANKFUL LEADS TO WELLBEING.
Gratitude is related to 23% lower levels of stress hormones including cortisol.
This is how being appreciative can actually lead to a longer life. With fewer cases of stress, anxiety and depression. The brain releases “feel good” hormones rather than anxiety and stress-producing hormones.
Practicing gratitude even led to a 7% reduction in biomarkers of inflammation in patients with congestive heart failure.
Grateful people have 16% lower diastolic blood pressure and 10% lower systolic blood pressure compared to those less grateful.
Writing a letter of gratitude reduced feelings of hopelessness in 88% of suicidal inpatients and increased levels of optimism in 94% of them.
Two gratitude activities are counting blessings and gratitude letter writing reduced the risk of depression in at-risk patients by 41% over a six month period.
Want to lose weight? Be grateful
Dietary fat intake is reduced by as much as 25% when people are keeping a gratitude journal.
A daily gratitude practice can decelerate the effects of neurodegeneration that occurs with increasing age.
Older adults administered the neuropeptide oxytocin showed a 12% increase in gratitude compared to those given a placebo.
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.
A chronic pain sufferer experimented with gratitude after trying other practices. It worked well for her. Writing “negativity took over my life and I stopped seeing friends and socializing. Then I stopped leaving the house and even showering. A previously positive person had become quite a mess full of misery and despair. The pain took over my life and I lost all other identities I once had. I was the pain and the pain was me.”
In digging deeper she realized there are many things she was grateful for because she lives with chronic pain. “I am grateful that I now realize what is really important in life and I don’t sweat the small stuff. I am grateful for all the friends I’ve made in my Chronic Pain Anonymous group and in my Facebook support group “Attitude of Gratitude with Chronic Pain.”
When, like the sufferer above, one truly starts to think about everything in life to be grateful for, lots of additional items belong on that list. Thinking about blessings is an excellent way to boost happiness and lessen pain.
How to start a Gratitude Journal to take advantage of scientific research.
Any paper notebook or even a tablet can be a gratitude journal. However, a physically appealing journal is more calming. Enjoying the color and binding or wrapper will make writing more fun. When an object feels good in the hand then your pain will decrease.
A beautiful book will help make the process of writing down grateful thoughts easier than using a standard tablet or notebook.
Each night before going to bed, first think about then write down everything to be grateful for in that last day. This nighttime practice has been proven to allow sleep to come faster and improve sleep quality.
Don’t just think about huge, monumental, life-changing moments of gratefulness. A good meal, book, or movie, and other simple, daily occurrences like a smile from a stranger are all worthy of gratitude.
Start with 5 different things to be grateful for and over time increase that number. If reading or watching tv before bed is a habit, that is fine. Journaling thoughts of gratitude as the very last thing before sleep works best for pain reduction.
An easy habit to carry out
When unsure how to create a gratitude journal, although even a paper and pencil would work, try a search for a “gratitude journal” or “thankfulness journal”. There are online gratitude journal templates that can be personalized for unique situations. Or “online gratitude journal” will reveal applications to create a gratitude journal from any Internet-connected device.
Reduce your stress and pain with gratitude daily.
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