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It can be easy to see the importance of your physical daily life. What can be difficult to see is how your thoughts and gratitude habits can have an effect on other areas of your life. This includes not only your psychological health but your physical health as well. It may be easy to see how keeping your thoughts positive can make you happier here and there in daily life. It actually has much longer-lasting effects than that, though.

The Health Benefits of Positivity

Stress in every area of your life stimulates the release of stress hormones like cortisol. These stress hormones impact how the body works. When you stress more, your body has a higher demand for hormones to adapt to the stressor(s). That’s where optimism and gratitude come in. A habit of gratitude exercises and a positive perspective impact what hormones and chemicals the body produces.

The NIH (National Institutes of Health) points out that positive emotion and gratitude have been linked to better self-regulation, resilience, self-motivation, and reduced stress levels. [1] The NIH also points out that negative emotions can activate the amygdala. [2] The amygdala plays a role in fear and anxiety. It has been shown that there are big differences among people whose amygdala recovers rapidly or slowly from a threat. Those who take longer to recover tend to be more at risk for a variety of health conditions.

Lower Blood Pressure

PsychNet published a study that shows significant decreases in systolic blood pressure in those who went through a 10-week, gratitude-based intervention. [3] Those who were in the control group showed no such decreases. This study further found that gratitude led to other healthy habits, including weight loss and an increased likelihood of quitting smoking.

Total Health Institute also shares a study on emotions that had 2,654 people complete a questionnaire ranking their positive emotions on a scale of 0-12. They found that the higher a person scored on the test, the lower their blood pressure was. The findings suggest that targeting people’s emotional well-being could be an effective way to help control blood pressure. [4]

Better Mental Health

Studies have been done on whether gratitude could be a treatment for poor mental health. Others point out gratitude exercises can be used as a competing response that can break a negativity spiral, which, in turn, can halt the production of stress hormones. [3] Gratitude isn’t the be-all, end-all solution to depression or anxiety, but it can certainly help.

As the Anxiety and Depression Association of America puts it:

While anxiety and depressive disorders come in different forms and flavors, they share some commonalities. All are associated with underlying negative thinking patterns. These patterns include both what we think and how we think. In other words, both the content and the process of thinking impact anxiety and depression. This is where gratitude can be particularly helpful. [5]

Lowered Inflammation

All the health ailments we experience on a regular basis come back to chronic inflammation. Inflammation is a part of the way the body heals itself. The problem comes when the inflammation becomes chronic. When this happens, it causes more problems than it solves.

In a 2015 study done on patients with heart failure, it was shown that expressing feelings of gratitude lowered inflammation markers. [6] Gratitude was also shown to help with things like sleep quality and negative emotions. To quote the study:

“This study examined associations between gratitude, spiritual wellbeing, sleep, mood, fatigue, cardiac-specific self-efficacy, and inflammation in 186 men and women with Stage B asymptomatic HF [heart failure]. In correlational analysis, gratitude was associated with better sleep, less depressed mood, less fatigue, and better self-efficacy to maintain cardiac function. Patients expressing more gratitude also had lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers.”

Fewer Aches and Chronic Pains

Your body regenerates the best while it sleeps, and a positive outlook has been shown to help improve sleep quality. Your body doesn’t regenerate as well when the immune system is stressed out. When the immune system is stressed, it builds up more and more inflammation. WebMD explains the benefits a practice of gratitude has on physical health this way:

“People who are grateful tend to sleep better and have fewer aches and pains. Increased feelings of gratitude might even indirectly improve immune function and reduce inflammation.” [7]

PubMed also published a study that shows a link between positive thinking and reduced pain. [8]

Lower Stress and Improved Heart Health

Keeping our mindsets positive and practicing daily gratitude makes it easier to handle the stresses life brings. This alone is a huge health benefit. Stresses—traumas, toxins, and thoughts—are what cause inflammation. Maintaining a positive outlook can help reduce the impact of these stressors on the body by lowering inflammation.

It is difficult to hold both stressful thoughts and a positive mindset at the same time. So, when your levels of gratitude and positivity rise, your levels of stress go down. You’re then able to breathe easier and look at the world with a more level mind.

Harvard Health points out that a positive outlook, including being optimistic and having a purpose in life, can protect your heart. [9]

How to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude and Positivity

Keep a Gratitude Journal

Writing out the things you’re grateful for is a great way to slow your mind down and focus on the positive. It can be difficult to make the time, though. And it can be hard for each person to keep up with it consistently. Instead, try having regular gratitude interventions around the table as you eat together. End—or begin—the day on a positive note and set yourself up for success.

Practice Positive Self-Talk

A good rule of thumb is not to say anything about yourself you wouldn’t say about other people.

Make it a point to associate with grateful people

We mirror those we surround ourselves with—their actions, phrases, and postures. If we associate with people who practice gratitude, it’ll rub off on us. Associating with these sorts of people makes it easier for us to keep a daily attitude of gratitude.

Be intentional with social media

Technology and its distractions are linked to an increased risk of depression. Spending too much time on screens can also lead to isolation and a reduced attention span as potential effects.

When we scroll on social media, we’re looking at highlight reels of people’s lives, meaning we’re not getting the full picture. In contrast, we tend to notice the everyday challenges and struggles in our own lives. Over time, it can lead us to start comparing our lives to theirs, which can ultimately hurt our ability to practice gratitude. It cultivates discontentment in what we have, leading to a feeling of, “The grass is greener on the other side.”

When you spend time on social media, be deliberate in celebrating the successes and joys of others. Then share your own positive experiences. Social media can be an opportunity to share “what’s going well.” Then be intentional about spending time away from screens and soak in meaningful, real-life experiences with loved ones.

Move your body

It can be easy to fall into a rut of sitting in a chair all day. Between work, school, and zoning out in front of the TV when you get home, most of us do exactly that. When you move your body and get regular exercise, it becomes far easier to smile and maintain a positive outlook. Your body is made for movement, and you’ll feel better if you regularly engage in some type of physical activity. It’s a lot easier to be grateful when you feel good.

Take Time to Laugh

It’s hard to feel stressed when you’re laughing. In fact, Scientific American did a report on a Norwegian study that found that laughter, especially for women, dramatically lowered mortality rate. [10] That’s no laughing matter! Haha. 🙂

It’s easy to find comedians or comedies; in fact, you can find a ton of them online. Do a quick YouTube or internet search, and you’ll be laughing for days! You can also embrace the comical nature of things that happen every day. Give yourself permission to laugh at your own silly instances that happen throughout your day, and you’ll never run out of things to laugh at.

Express gratitude to your loved ones

As you go about your day, take a few moments here and there to express gratitude to those you care about. What did they do that you’re grateful for? Are you grateful simply for their presence? Write gratitude letters like a gratitude journal. This will help your mind slow down and take in what you’re saying.

Try to look at your own individual differences as a source for something you can be thankful for. Are they funny and always able to bring a smile to you? Can they look at a situation differently than you do? Look for ways to find positives in every situation. This can make it much easier to see the good in yourself, as well. These simple gratitude practices will strengthen your friendships and relationships. They’ll also help keep your romantic relationships in a healthy place.

Help support your body by taking care of your three T’s—traumas, toxins, and thoughts. To learn more about how to support your body, contact a Wellness Way clinic, today!

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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