What are you grateful for today?
The attitude of gratitude can have some wonderful effects for one’s mind, body, emotions and overall life. As we face troubling news each day, the stress can be overwhelming. While negative events have dominated our TV’s for decades, playing on the fact that fear-based information gains one’s attention and viewership quite easily, it’s important to remember to take care of our stress levels and overall emotional state. Keeping a gratitude journal for a month may be a real way to help us manage stress and to help us keep a positive attitude on life.
“Thousands of years of literature talk about the benefits of cultivating gratefulness as a virtue,” says University of California Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons. Countless historical leaders, religious prophets and philosophers have taught how valuable it is to be grateful each day. Recent research related to the effects of gratitude and positive psychology have shown some promising results Dr. Emmons says.
Emmons explains how grateful people, or those who maintain gratitude as a permanent trait rather than a temporary state of mind, tend to see more health benefits than those who are usually not grateful for the things in their life. “Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular physical examinations,” Emmons says.
Gratitude Boosts The Immune System
Those who practice gratitude tend to be more optimistic, and according to researchers, optimism boosts the immune system. “There are some very interesting studies linking optimism to better immune function,” explains Lisa Aspinwall, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Utah.
One study examined the immune systems of healthy, but under stress, first-year law students at the beginning of their semester and again by the midterm. Students characterized as optimistic (based on survey responses) maintained higher numbers of blood cells which protect the immune system, than students who reported more pessimistic attitudes.
Optimistic attitudes, which improve by practicing gratitude, have also been shown by several studies to be linked to better health outcomes for patients who underwent surgery.
People understand today that stress is the cause of a variety of ailments and illnesses. Being unable to cope with stressful events and situations can deteriorate one’s health and can lead to heart disease, cancer, and is reported to be the cause of the majority of all doctor visits. On the other hand, it turns out that gratitude is highly effective at helping people manage stress better. “Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress,” Emmons explains.
“Gratitude can change our perspective so dramatically, and in such a short period of time that it relaxes resistance… clearing our path of things we find difficult about falling in love with ourselves,” explains Mimi Shannon, an author who healed her own cancer, lupus and heart disease through gratitude and self-love. “Gratitude brings us totally into the present moment. It gets us right here and now, into our lives, into our bodies… into where all the harmony and all the music of life actually exists. It’s very, very powerful.”
Fewer Aches and Pains
A 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences found that grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier in general when compared to others who did not report grateful attitudes.
Gratitude Helps Boost Physical Health
Emmons’ research showed that people who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis tend to exercise more regularly, report fewer physical symptoms, feel better about their lives in general and maintain greater attitudes of optimism about the future.
Gratitude Improves Psychological Health
Gratitude reduces numerous uncomfortable emotions, which when pent up over-time, create toxic effects; from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Dr. Emmons conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being and his studies have shown that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. Keeping a gratitude journal can be a great step towards maintaining our psychological health.
How To Keep A Gratitude Journal
1. Begin by choosing a beautiful journal or notepad where you will house these powerful and healthful thoughts and feelings.
2. Each night before you go to bed, list 5 things that you are grateful for from that day. They can be big or small things: I am grateful for: going to sleep early, seeing today’s sunset, talking to my daughter on the phone and laughing, how I handled the dog getting into the trash, being on vacation.
3. Praise Yourself: Make sure to find at least one thing each day to praise yourself for. This boosts optimism and also adds to your self-esteem.
4. Stay consistent but don’t worry if you miss a few days. Then begin to notice the wonderful shift that takes place inside and outside of you as the month unfolds.
Why keep a journal compared to just trying to notice positive things around you?
The Greater Good Science Center at the University of Berkeley explains that Dr. Emmons emphasizes research showing that; translating thoughts into concrete language – whether oral or written – has advantages over just thinking the thoughts: It makes us more aware of them, deepening their emotional impact.
“Gratitude is a blessing for it is an act of grace that takes absolutely no preparation, no education, nothing.”
Have you kept a gratitude journal at any point in your life? How has it helped you?
Let us know in the comments, and enjoy journaling!
You are Loved.