As a growing field of science is starting to show, the benefits of cultivating an attitude of gratitude are very real and can have a positive affect on our health. We feel gratitude in our physical bodies. You might know that 1 out of 2 Americans suffer from heart disease in the U.S. Any intervention strategy that might be effective is certainly worth listening to.  "At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us." Albert Schweitzer
 

Here is what the researchers found:

1) Heart health

  • People who practice being grateful on the whole have fewer clogged arteries, particularly coronary arteries.
  • If you actually have a heart attack, being grateful can reduce your chances of having a second attack. Makes sense, doesn't it? People who are angry about what happened to them have elevated blood pressure, which causes vessels to constrict, leading to heart disease.
  • Even if you were unfortunate enough to have a heart transplant, people who engage in gratitude practices are more likely to comply with health regimens and live longer.

2) Immune system

In one experiment, practice-cultivating appreciation resulted in a significant increase in antibodies found in the nose and mouth that serve as the body's first line of defense against cold and flu bugs. Could we then say that gratitude could be a part of a person's psychological immune system, so to speak?

3) Nun's study:

There was a classic longitudinal study on health and aging, particularly useful for studying dementia risks. 21 yr. old young women about to begin lives as nuns were asked to write autobiographies.

An interesting finding emerged. Those who reported feelings of gratitude despite circumstances were more likely to still be alive six decades later. There was a 7-year difference in longevity.

TRY IT: Keep a Gratitude Journal
Write down 5 things every day that you are grateful for. Keep this up for 6 weeks, 3 months, or even longer and see how you feel.


The Science of Happiness: An Experiment in Gratitude: 7:13 min

 

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