Physical Benefits of Gratitude
Being thankful is a significant predictor in lowering the risk of various health issues, including phobias nicotine dependence, alcohol dependence, drug “abuse” or dependence, eating disorders. It’s also been found to correlate to healthier eating and food choices, lowering the chances of developing coronary heart disease and even improving mortality rates. (Wood et al., 2010). Want to live a life which is longer, happier and healthier? Get thankful!
The Science & Psychology of Gratitude
The definition of gratitude focuses more on the feelings and emotions: “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”.
More recent research has shown that it’s more than that though. Delving a little deeper into the actual psychology of gratitude reveals that the science basis is about noticing and appreciating positive things in life; the smell of your lunch, the feel of fresh clean crisp bedding, a rainbow, the vibrant colours of the sky at sunset, or a flower, birdsong, the taste of a cup of tea; the list goes on!
Research into gratitude is still a fairly ‘new’ area of science. It is widely accepted that gratitude practice boosts our feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine) and reduces our stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline). There are however, some well recorded benefits which you may find surprising.
A prominent Physio in the US, Sandy Hilton advocates ‘pleasure hunts’. Actively appreciating little opportunities in day to day life can help boost our feel good hormones which are known to positively impact our health.
Think of making a cup of tea; it can be so much more! Listen to the radio and sing along to a song as the kettle boils. Watch the water flow from the spout and over the tea bag. Smell the infusion as it wafts towards your nostrils. Savour the taste of the freshly brewed drink. Perhaps appreciate the vessel it’s in if it’s your favourite… it’s quite easy to do isn’t it, if you put your mind to it?
Writing it Down
You get extra brownie points for keeping a gratitude journal, as it’s been found to increase your long-term wellbeing by 10% from just 5-minutes of gratitude journalling (Happier Human, 2010). You may acknowledge your God, or the universe in being instrumental in bringing happiness to you. Writing about it has found even more benefits to mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health. Have a read as to why this could be a great thing to do as studies have found people who keep a gratitude journal have the following benefits:
6% fewer physical symptoms
19% more time spent exercising
10% less physical pain
8% more sleep, and
25% increased sleep quality
30% decrease in depressive symptoms
significant decreases in systolic blood pressure for people with hypertension (Happier Human, 2018).
If that isn’t a good enough reason to go and buy a nice book (whilst appreciating the look and feel of it of course) I don’t know what is!