The Power of Thank-You Article of the week August 14-18, 2017
In last week's article of the week I discussed new brain research that shows that the happiness part of your brain is stimulated when you give to others, even moreso than when you receive. In short, generosity is a path that leads to more happiness. The other element of the article that I didn't have time to elaborate on is gratitude or thankfulness. This week I want to share the health benefits that occur when you take the time and energy to practice being grateful.
According to Duke University brain research scientist Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, “if [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world's best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system”.
So what does research say about gratitude and how it improves your health?—00Y01JF3/
- it has a pain-lowering effect, reduces inflammation and blood sugar, improves immune function, blood pressure and heart health, and encourages general self-care
- it increases happiness and life satisfaction by lowering stress and emotional distress (anxiety)
- it improves mental health by triggering the release of your body's naturally manufactured anti-depressant chemicals serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and oxytocin
- it improves sleep
When I looked at this list I thought about how I have been programmed to think that the easiest way to improve your health is through diet and exercise. Simply taking the time to focus on what is good in your life each day can have very similar benefits for your health. For those of you dealing with back pain and body discomfort, take notice of the first bullet point that says practicing being grateful has a pain-lowering effect!
Gratitude has been defined as the action of “affirming the good in our lives, and recognizing its sources. It is the understanding that life owes me nothing and all the good I have is a gift, accompanied by an awareness that nothing can be taken for granted”. So what are some habits you can develop so that you can reap the health benefits of gratitude?
Keep a gratitude journal and take 5-10 minutes each day to write down what you're thankful for. This can be a challenge at first because many of us tend to focus more on the problems in our life and what is lacking. However, research has again shown that gratitude is like a muscle that can be strengthened with practice. Remember, everything we do creates connections within the brain, and the more you repeat something the stronger those connections become, so make sure you keep up the practice for at least 30 days before you reflect on how it is working.
Avoid getting sucked into bad news – you may have to limit your media exposure if you find that the overwhelmingly negative messages of world events are monopolizing your focus.
At bedtime, become mindful of your thoughts as you lay down. We all have parts of our life that we want to see change, but focus on what is good. Focus on the aspects of your health that are good. Focus on a past or future holiday, the friendships in your life you value, a time in your life when you had a breakthrough or achieved a goal, good things happening to your loved ones. Be creative! With all of the celebration over Canada's 150th birthday this summer I've found it easy to focus on my gratitude that of all the places my ancestors could have chosen to settle they chose this wonderful country.
If you find that you are having a hard time finding things to be grateful for, remember that the more you express gratitude, you will notice more things to be grateful for showing up in your life!
Gratitude can change your brain and your life. Don't miss out on this simple yet powerful health strategy.
I'm grateful that you have put your trust in me as your chiropractor!