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Being Grateful is Good For You! GRATITUDE AND HEALTH
“We notice the positives more, and that magnifies the pleasures you get from life.”
Feeling thankful can improve your health in both direct and indirect ways. Some research shows that the experience of gratitude can induce a sense of relaxation, improve the immune system, and decrease blood pressure. But grateful people also tend to cultivate better health habits, like eating more nutritious food, exercising, and avoiding risky behaviors. In addition, the optimism that stems from gratitude can create a healing attitude: research shows that people with optimistic attitudes have better outcomes after medical procedures. GRATITUDE AND JOY Robert Emmons, an internationally renowned scientific expert on gratitude, has found that acknowledging the good in life has a tendency to amplify positive emotions, such as joy and contentment, because it helps us slow down. “I think gratitude allows us to participate more in life,” he says. “We notice the positives more, and that magnifies the pleasures you get from life.” Consider the last time you had a good cup of coffee—did you pay attention to the warmth of the cup on your hands, or the feeling of pleasure as you took the first sip? It’s easy to ignore these small moments of positivity in our day as we rush from one activity to another, but stopping to appreciate them makes them more powurful.
GRATITUDE AND RESILIENCE Practicing gratitude can also make you better equipped to handle the difficulties of life that inevitably arise. In fact, according to Emmons, it’s an essential part of the process of healing from trauma. Even despair can be mitigated by the experience of appreciation for the good, however slight it might be. Many survivors of the Holocaust, when asked to tell their stories, remember most strongly the feelings of gratitude for food, shelter, or clothing that was offered to them. This sense of thankfulness for the small blessings helped them maintain their humanity despite experiencing a horrific tragedy. Many people with life-threatening illnesses also report decreased distress and increased positive emotions when they practice gratitude. Recent MRI studies have mapped the gratitude circuitry in the brain, which activates a sense of reward, fairness, and decision-making— all aspects that help facilitate survival and post-traumatic growth.
Emmons, R. (2010 November 16). Why gratitude is good. Greater Good. Retrieved from http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good . Emmons, R.A., Stern, R. (2013). Gratitude as a psychotherapeutic intervention. Journal of Clinical Psychology; 69(8), 846-855. Excerpts taken from https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/10-ways-be-more-thankful-person
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