If you have been paying attention, you might have noticed there is a lot of talk revolving around positive attitude lately.
It has grown into a movement and is sweeping across the world as more and more people start to embrace spiritual consciousness. The word being bandied around is Mindfulness, and it is all about paying attention to our thoughts and living in the moment.
Mindfulness and thankfulness, gratitude if you rather, go hand-in-hand. A sense of thankfulness is one of the perks that come with practicing mindfulness. And it is a glorious feeling; so powerful it can light even the most difficult of days with hope and joy.
As we usher in the month of November, aka Thanksgiving Month, we deemed it just the opportune time to shine a light on this most important of matters.
Oil and Water No Longer
It is said that science and spirituality often don’t mix – at least in the Western world. It is a debate that has been raging ever since Copernicus made the bold claim that the earth circles the sun.
The divide between science and spirituality, however, is one that has never really manifested in the East. And as we continue to see the concept of yoga and mindful practices pervade the West, the two are increasingly starting to converge.
More and more researchers are starting to confirm what we knew all along: being thankful cannot only make you feel like a better person, but it is actually good for your health. True story.
The Health Benefits, according to Science
Many clinical trials are noting that the practice of gratitude can have profound and lasting effects in your life.
The health benefits of gratitude, according to many of these studies, revolve around improvement in the immune system, lower blood pressure and facilitation of more sleep.
A recent study by the University of California San Diego’s School of Medicine found that individuals who were more grateful in life actually had better heart health. More specifically, they suffered less inflammation and enjoyed healthier heart rhythms.
Study author, Paul J. Mills, noted that individuals who practiced gratitude more displayed a less depressed mood, less fatigue, better wellbeing and they slept better.
Professor of psychology Robert A. Emmons of UC Davis admits there is even more evidence.
You have heard about the benefits of journaling, right? Well, turns out keeping a gratitude journal can help lower your dietary fat intake by as much as 25%!
He also says grateful people have fewer stress hormones such as cortisol (23% lower) and that daily gratitude practice can indeed help curb the effects of aging to the brain.
Another study by researchers at the universities of Utah and Kentucky also established that gratitude can boost your immune health. They noted that stressed out law school students who consider themselves optimists actually had more disease-fighting cells in their bodies.
The explanation, according to science, is that thinking about what you appreciate triggers the calming or parasympathetic part of the nervous system.
This, in turn, brings protective benefits such as cutting down cortisol levels (the stress hormone) while boosting oxytocin (the bonding or love hormone) released when you snuggle up with a loved one or bond socially.
Other benefits that come through practicing mindful gratitude include the following:
Deliberately thinking about what you are grateful for increases attentiveness. You feel more alert and aware in life.
Fewer physical symptoms
Writing down five things you are grateful for each day makes you less susceptible to aches, pains and other physical symptoms.
Multiple studies have found that mindfulness can ease physical symptoms, including chronic pain.
Increased energy levels
Sadness or depression causes our energy levels to dip.
According to the Emmons study, those who kept a gratitude journal experienced increased energy levels. Many even started exercising more as a result.
Increased sense of joy
When you focus your thoughts on what’s good about the world, naturally you experience a greater sense of joy.
It’s good to note that gratitude is not about living in denial and feigning a sense of optimism. Life contains both good and bad things, and choosing to only focus on the good is, paradoxically, psychologically detrimental.
Mindful gratitude is all about acknowledging this reality, but not dwelling so much as to the negative that you fail to appreciate the good things and moments in life.
Feeling less lonely
The sense of safety that comes with practicing gratitude absolves us of the need to only look out for our own interests at the expense of others.
This eliminates the feelings of isolation and loneliness and allows us to truly connect with others.
Think of all the things you could be grateful for. Consider buying yourself a little journal and keep it by your bed. Each night, before you sleep, scribble down a few things for which you are grateful.
You may find that you probably sleep better and start up the next day with more freshness and a dose of positivity!