We all know the warm feeling we get from thanking someone and making them feel good, but new research shows that gratitude physically helps you and the person you’re grateful for. Clinical research found that gratitude lowers blood pressure, improves immune function, and facilitates restful sleep. A study from the University of California found that people who were more grateful through their words and actions had better heart health with less inflammation; essentially, gratitude has the opposite effect on the heart than stress.
Experts have found that keeping a gratitude journal can decrease dietary fat intake by as much as 25 percent. This isn’t a surprise when you consider the mindless eating that happens when you’re rushed. Anxiety and stress are comforted by bad foods; writing down what you’re grateful for interrupts that cycle long enough for you to gain control over what and when you eat.
Improving the immune system and heart health isn’t all that gratitude can do for you. Gratitude can help you deal with the losses in life. Gratitude in the aftermath of 9/11 helped buffer people from the harmful effects of stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Researchers found that gratitude helped people feel connected and supported in the wake of their loss.
In a materialist world how do you learn to feel more grateful? Experts report that gratitude is mentored and is highest among those who are more optimistic and have faced losses early in life. But that doesn’t mean you have to face hardship to feel grateful and to live a life of gratitude. These simple suggestions can help you and your family become more grateful and live a healthier life.
Begin a gratitude journal. People who write three things a day they’re grateful for suffer fewer physical complaints and feel more optimistic and upbeat about their lives.
Sharing gratitude helps cultivate gratitude. Each week on your planned date night, share one thing you appreciate most about your partner (if you don’t have a partner sharing with a friend works well too). Appreciating different things each week enhances your relationship as well as your health.
Keep a list of everything anyone does to show kindness to you. It doesn’t have to be a great thing; in fact, small things are more important. The more you look for these instances, the more grateful you’ll feel.
Three evenings a week, make it a priority to send someone a thank you email, tweet, text, or phone call. Gratitude is contagious. When you surround yourself with giving gratitude, you receive it as well.
Include gratitude in your family language. When you tuck your children in at night, ask them what they are most grateful for that day. Your child is never too young to being thinking grateful thoughts.
Families that incorporate gratefulness have lower hostility scores, fight fairer, and are more community-minded. A healthy society where families feel connected and supported begins at home.