Thankfulness: How Gratitude Can Help Your Health

thankfullness, gratitude

Gratitude is more than a buzzword. It’s a habit and practice that may change your perception of well-being.

Feeling overwhelmed? Do you sometimes feel like you just can’t catch a break? You know — the truck cuts you off, you get negative feedback from your boss, you can’t get the grocery item you need because it’s never on the store shelf?

Do you sometimes feel negative and cynical? Sure, we all do. But a lot can lead to depression —  which is linked to poor heart health, including   inflammation and a weak immune system. Yikes!

Some neuroscience experts think our brains focus on negative information to remember pain so we can avoid it in the future. They call this “negativity bias.”  To balance out this natural tendency, we can practice gratitude — a good medicine.

Research has shown that that the practice of gratitude is associated with many positive effects in a person’s physical and mental health. Expressing gratitude can improve sleep, mood and immunity, and can decrease depression, anxiety, chronic pain and disease.

So being grateful is the gift that keeps on giving, right? Who couldn’t use all these benefits right now?

Here’s a simple way to get started:

Write these down before you go to bed or share them around the dinner table. In five minutes, you can practice gratitude from the heart.

1. Health: What did your body do for you today?

You take about 8 million breaths per year, based on 15-16 breaths per minute. Your feet can take you up a mountain; your arms can hold someone you love. Take a minute to marvel at the finely tuned machinery of your body and thank yourself for the steps you take every day to keep it safe and healthy.

2. Eat: What did you feed your body to nourish yourself today?

Was it an old favorite, something you made or something new and different? If you eat three meals a day, you’ll eat about a thousand meals this year. Take a minute to savor an especially yummy meal. And check out some healthy options on the AHA’s recipe hub.

3. Activity: What did you enjoy doing today?

Did you give it your all when exercising today, or find a quiet moment while sitting in traffic to reflect? Take a minute to think back on one particularly awesome moment.

4. Relationship: With whom do you look forward to connecting?

Is it someone who sets your heart on fire, always has a smile for you, has your back or makes you laugh until you cry? Take a minute to smile as you think about this special person. Then plan to get together or talk with them soon.

5. Time: What are you doing right now?

Every single day you wake up with 24 brand new hours. The past is history, the future is a mystery and today is a gift — that’s why it’s called the present! Take a minute to be thankful for the gift of time, including any extra time you have right now for your family or yourself.

Let’s do this — and be Healthy for Good!