If you need one more reason to be appreciative, here it is. More and more researchers are finding that gratitude doesn’t just make you feel like a better person, it is actually good for your health.
Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in your life. It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function, facilitate more efficient sleep and improve over-all feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
One recent study from the University of California San Diego’s School of Medicine found that people who were more grateful actually had better heart health, specifically less inflammation and healthier heart rhythms.
“They showed a better well-being, a less depressed mood, less fatigue and they slept better,” said the study’s author, Paul J. Mills. “When I am more grateful, I feel more connected with myself and with my environment. That’s the opposite of what stress does.”
Researchers at the Universities of Utah and Kentucky found that gratitude can boost your immune system, that participants actually had more disease-fighting cells in their bodies.
People who keep a gratitude journal have a reduced dietary fat intake — as much as 25 percent lower. Stress hormones like cortisol are 23 percent lower in grateful people. Having a daily gratitude practice could actually reduce the effects of aging in the brain.
Gratitude has this impact because it recruits other positive emotions that have direct physical benefits, most likely through the immune system or endocrine system.
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 increasing oxytocin, the bonding hormone involved in relationships that make us feel so good. It is important to let those good feelings linger, let them truly soak into your present moment.
Some people say they don’t have anything to be grateful for. If you feel this way try to find one little thing to be grateful for and focus on that. You may find over time you begin noticing other small opportunities for gratitude. These small moments can snowball into more significant experiences and before you know it you can find yourself having everything to be grateful for.