Gratitude; the practice of being thankful and showing appreciation, a task that might seem basic and simple but carries with it all kinds of benefits. And although it is not always easy to be thankful if we master the art of showing appreciation and kindness no matter what happens in life and make it a part of daily routine, we will start living a much healthier life. As Oprah said;
“Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.”
It has been scientifically proven that the more you show gratitude, the healthier you will be. Studies have shown that feeling grateful has a neurological effect on us. What happens is that there is part of our brain which is known as the hypothalamus. It helps our body in several functions like appetite, temperature, growth, sleep, and metabolism. Now, whenever we show gratitude, our hypothalamus is activated and we feel better.
The interesting thing about gratitude is that it is addictive. Research shows that positive acts like being kind and thankful releases a chemical known as dopamine. So whenever we are genuinely grateful, our brain releases dopamine and we feel naturally high. This feeling is incredibly good and liberating and who does not like experiencing that more and more. And hence, we feel motivated to be good and kind to ourselves as well as others.
With that said, here are 4 benefits of gratitude that contribute towards us living a healthy life and body;
- Decrease in Pain Levels
A little hard to believe but it is a fact. A study, Counting Blessings vs. Burdens, was carried out in 2003 in which sick patients were asked to keep a gratitude journal. The results showed that 16% of the patients showed a decrease in their symptoms while 10% of the patients noticed that their pain had reduced. The experiment also resulted in patients showing more willingness to exercise as well as motivated to recover.
- Better Sleep
Multiple studies show that happier people have better sleep cycles. Not only do they fall asleep quickly but they also sleep more. As we mentioned before, sleep is one of the many vital functions that the hypothalamus is responsible for and as this part of the brain is activated through gratitude, being thankful results in us experiencing quality sleep.
- Reduces Stress
In 2007 a study was carried out to learn about the effects of gratitude on people going through stress. The patients were asked to count anything that they were grateful for at least once a week. When the results came, researchers found out that the participant’s systolic blood pressure decreased significantly.
Other studies have also shown that practicing appreciation and gratefulness reduces cortisol which is one of the major stress hormones.
- Decreased Depression and Anxiety
Research shows that keeping a gratitude journal causes our long-term happiness to increase by more than 10% as well as a decrease in depression by more than 30%.
MRI scans proved that people who practiced keeping a gratitude journal are better to deal with negative emotions and showed more empathy and kindness.