Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday to remind us that a gratitude practice can be very powerful tool for improving health and well being as well as mental clarity. This practice is so beneficial it is part of my daily practice, just like healthy eating. It is an important part of building resilience.
Advanced research at theInstitute of HeartMath and elsewhere has provided evidence that gratitude is not simply a nice sentiment or feeling. Sustained feelings of gratitude have real benefits, including the following:
- Biochemical changes – Favorable changes in the body’s biochemistry include improved hormonal balance and an increase in production of DHEA, the “anti-aging hormone.”
- Increased positivity – Daily gratitude exercises can bring about a greater level of positive feelings, according to researchers from the University of Miami and the University of California, Davis who studied this process in 157 individuals over 13 days.
- Boost to the immune system– The IgA antibody, which serves as the first line of defense against pathogens, increases in the body.
- Emotional “compound interest” – The accumulated effect of sustained appreciation and gratitude is that these feelings, and coherence, are easier to recreate with continued practice. This is because experiencing an emotion reinforces the neural pathways of that particular emotion as it excites the brain, heart and nervous system. The downside is that you also can reinforce negative emotions.
TheInstitute of HeartMath is helping more people experience the benefits of the sincere feelings Thanksgiving celebrates by providing the following helpful appreciation exercise:
- Instructions: Take a few short appreciation breaks during the day. During each break take one or two minutes to breathe deeply through the area of the heart. While doing so, try to hold a sincere feeling of appreciation in your heart area. This can be appreciation for a family member, friend who helped you with something or even a wonderful vacation, etc.
- Why it works: The exercise of activating a positive feeling like appreciation literally shifts our physiology, helping to balance our heart rhythms and nervous system, and creates more coherence between the heart, brain and rest of the body.
The Heartmath Institute provides tools to measure the physiological impact of gratitude on your body. I have used the emWave Personal Stress Reliever tool for two years now and have found it to be very helpful in monitoring my heart and stress level.
Gratitude is a simple and effective practice and the benefits are real and attainable. It creates a healthier, happier and more fulfilling state of being for anyone who takes a few moments to feel and reflect on it.
Photo credit: libookperson