Studies show that practicing gratitude, even for five minutes a week, leads to a happier, healthier and more successful life. In fact, it has measurable positive impacts on our health and wellbeing, according to a study by the National Institute of Health.
This week, we’ll define gratitude, discuss its benefits and explain how it works — all from a scientific perspective.
What Is Gratitude?
“Gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; it is a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation,” according to the National Center of Biotechnology Information.
When we talk about “practicing gratitude,” it simply means to dedicate regular time to reflect on what you’re grateful for, usually through a list, journal or artistic exercise.
The Scientific Case for Gratitude
During a study by the NIH, participants were divided into three groups. The first group was asked to journal about negative events or hassles. The second group journaled about the things they were grateful for, and a third group wrote about neutral life events. Each group was required to journal either daily or weekly.
The result? The group journaling on gratitude consistently demonstrated a higher state of wellbeing in comparison to the other two groups. The gratitude group also showed greater increases in determination, attention, enthusiasm and energy compared to the others.
How Does It Work?
The simple act of practicing gratitude triggers a complex domino effect of positive actions in the body that, ultimately, leads to better physical and mental health.
It all starts with the spark of positive emotions, which impacts our hypothalamus, a specific part of the brain. The hypothalamus controls a huge array of essential bodily functions — including eating, drinking and sleeping — as well as influences our metabolism, stress levels and function of the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus prompts our pituitary gland to produce more endorphins, or your feel-good hormones, which trigger positive feelings and act as the body’s natural painkiller. Endorphins also stimulate the dilation of your blood vessels, which leads to a relaxed heart, and when endorphins are released into the bloodstream, they can strengthen and enhance your immune system, enabling the body to resist disease and recover more quickly from illness.
Gratitude helps you attract the good things in life — whether it’s positive thoughts in the mind or healthy actions in the body. So give it a try for yourself and see how practicing gratitude will impact your life. However, remember it’s not enough to just go through the steps — you actually have to mean it, too!
Weekly Action: Gratitude List
- Get a notebook/journal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.
- Write a list of all the things you’re thankful for. If you completed the actions from last week’s blog entry, you can use that list.
- Choose one item from your list that you really feel like you can’t do without — and actually might want more of in your life.
- In your journal, complete the following sentence.
- “I am happy and grateful ________.”
Examples: I am happy and grateful for my health.
I am happy and grateful to have clean water to drink.
I am happy and grateful to have Jane Smith in my life.
- “I am happy and grateful ________.”
- Each day, read over your gratitude statements first thing in the morning or at night before bed. Then add an additional sentence. Do this each day for at least a week.
- Bonus Points: Read your gratitude statements in the morning and at night!
Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments below!
Aazam Irilian, is an artist with a mission to heal and the founder of heal the heart. She is a Transformation coach and helps others to uncover their blocks and overcome life challenges in order to move forward in life, personally and professionally. Her process of combining visualization and creativity, allows participants to relax and clear their mind, in order to identify solutions toward achieving best result for personal and professional growth.