Many of us were taught by our parents to count our blessings and not take things for granted. But did you know that giving thanks has a multitude of health benefits?
Robert Emmons is a Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Davis, and a renowned scientific expert on gratitude, who has conducted over a decade’s worth of studies. Research shows that affirming the good in your life and acknowledging its sources consistently results in numerous positive outcomes physically, psychologically and socially.
Some people may not be grateful by nature or think they don’t have anything to be grateful for, but the good news is that gratitude is something you can learn, it is a habit you can get accustomed to and one that has the potential for profound transformation in nearly every area of your life. We are not talking about putting lipstick on a pig, or a Pollyanna-esque denial of the disappointments in your life. Gratitude works when you’re grateful for something real; and not just appreciating the things we receive, but the thing we are able to contribute. Focusing on what we can give enables us to grow and deepen our spirituality.
How do you practice gratitude? The most common method used by Emmons and his colleagues in their studies is a gratitude journal. Regularly writing down the gifts, the graces and the things that go right in life, goes a long way toward cultivating well being. According to the research, gratitude, it turns out, makes you a happier, healthier person. Research showed that even writing down as little as 5 blessings a week for three weeks had dramatic effects. Not surprisingly, the research revealed that the more you write (daily for example) the greater the positive affects you experience. When you cultivate an attitude of gratitude here are some of the benefits you can expect:
· Stronger immune systems
· Less bothered by aches and pains
· Lower blood pressure
· Exercise more and take better care of your health
· Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
· Higher levels of positive emotions
· More alert, alive, and awake
· More joy and pleasure
· More optimism and happiness
· More helpful, generous, and compassionate
· More forgiving
· More outgoing
· Feel less lonely and isolated.
There are additional benefits to those listed here, and many more ways to cultivate your gratitude practice. Start exploring and pick a practice that works for you; the important thing is to begin!