Your body and mind will thank you for taking an extra minute to reflect on what you’re grateful for, when you sit down at the Thanksgiving table.
A friend made you laugh with a text message. You’re going on vacation next month. Your cat likes you. Your team made the playoffs. Your family makes you feel needed. When you take a minute to remember all the good things in your life, no matter how big or small they may be, it can pay off big time for your health.
“Review what you are grateful for,” suggests Carolyn Kaloostian, MD, MPH, clinical assistant professor of family medicine (clinician educator) at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “It doesn’t matter if you do it in the morning, at lunch or in the evening. All that matters is you are specific when you do it — and that you do it once a day.
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Here are six of the proven ways that gratitude helps your health:
1. It is a stress reliever.
When you’re feeling anxious and tired, instead of numerating your woes, try counting your blessings instead. Numerous studies have shown that simply by remembering the positive things in the world around you, and in your own life, you can help boost levels of the feel-good hormones: serotonin and dopamine.
2. It is a natural pain reliever.
Move over Advil. One study found that those who were more grateful were less likely to report feeling aches and pains. Try it. You have nothing to lose.
3. It helps you sleep better.
Have you heard of a gratitude journal? The idea is that you write down a few things you’re grateful for, every night, before going to bed. One study found that those who did this for a week said they had more restful nights. The researchers theorize that the practice helps calm your mind.
4. It can help keep your blood pressure in check.
Lowered blood pressure is a likely a side effect of reduced stress. Whatever the reason, those who practice gratitude have a 16% lower diastolic blood pressure and a 10% lower systolic blood pressure than those who don’t.
5. It boosts your immune system.
Next time you feel a cold coming on, take a few minutes to appreciate the good things in your life. One study showed that those who are more optimistic have stronger immune systems, and optimism and gratitude go hand in hand.
6. It makes you happier.
When you focus on what you have instead of what you don’t, you’re less likely to be depressed. Gratitude keeps you focused on the present, instead of worrying about what might be.
by Anne Fritz
If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for exceptional care from some of the top physicians in the world, be sure to schedule an appointment, by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.