Booster-Shot! Health Can Come From Surprising Places:
Gratitude resurfaces at a time of year when we’re reminded of the virtues we tend to gloss-over,
Sadly, that quality can get lost in the whirl and rush of the 12th month just as we tried to remember it 30+ days before.
Christmas is about thoughtfulness and generosity. New Year’s Eve is about celebrating. And New Year’s Day is about self-reflection.
But in the case of the namesake virtue from that sports & binge-fest holiday in November,
Science says it can actually inspire great things in you; besides just arguing with distant relatives and diversifying the dessert narrative in your life…
Happy Is Healthy, Remember?:
As you might imagine once someone starts talking about it,
There are several mental habits that can impact positively on your health in different ways.
And in a very stealthy way that is not as obvious or famous as assertiveness or mindfulness meditation,
Gratitude, of all things, has at least a few health benefits associated with it,
And it actually goes a lot deeper than saying something nice at church or Thanksgiving during the awkward, “What are you thankful for this year, Jimmy?” merry-go-round of mild-embarrassment.
Here are a few of those benefits:
1) Gratitude Might Help You Stop Overeating:
A big part of staying slim is Discipline and measurement.
This part is absolutely-crucial to avoiding rushed decisions and fast-eating which as we’ve said before, is linked to weight-gain and taking in too many calories.
The increase in Patience that Northeastern U. researcher David DeSteno showed in his study worked for something even more impulsive: Money.
So just think of how much that small practice can help something like eating the right amount of food at a speed that will make you feel the most full, enjoy it the most, and get you to the body’s 20-Minute food-response point without overdoing.
2) Gratitude May Help You Get To Sleep Better & Faster:
One of the things that can really get in the way of a good night’s rest is all those racing-thoughts at the end of the day.
Whether it’s a To Do List that’s stuffed to the gills & hard to finish,
Or just worries about logistics, future complications, or genuine Anxiety Disorders,
Gratitude it turns out, also helps you sleep better.
In one of the first studies on this application, Alex Wood’s team found the act of coming up with a few things to be thankful for at the end of the day, instead of just stressing, can help almost any type of person sleep better and fall asleep faster.
It seems that the very type of thinking stealthily crowds-out the kind of things that keep you up at night.
And better sleep = better health!
3) Gratitude Can Reduce Depression Over Time:
One of the big problems with depression is that it takes over your mind and turns it against you in just about every possible way.
Well, Gratitude’s got that covered, too.
In several studies, the act of finding something to be grateful about lessened subjects’ feelings of depression.
*Most important about this practice, is Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky’s reminder that if you give the activity a little space, you actually create a greater effect.
Believe it or not, 1x/Week works better than 1x/Day!
Not only that, but another study showed that grateful people even have higher perceived social support, which can result in positive feelings, lower Stress, and a longer life.
4) Gratitude Makes People Practice Better Health, Too:
Another surprising and unforeseen benefit of gratitude is that it doesn’t just make you healthier.
It’s not just your mood improving your body-chemistry.
In a study on personal gratitude vs. health, Patrick Hill found not only do people who count themselves as grateful have better habits, activities and overall health,
They also take better care of themselves.
Subjects reporting regular feelings of gratitude were also more likely to go to the doctor for any concerns and to follow their orders, too!
And this type of conscientiousness seemed to pervade their lives.
Maybe if it reduces depression and increases patience, that can influence health,
-Because maybe people feel like they have more mental space to take a few more minutes to look after themselves a little better?
And the best part of it is, since you can make yourself Practice gratitude,
Maybe you can join the ranks of the successful test subjects too with just a little homework 1x a week…
5) Grandma Was Right. Counting Your Blessings Gives You Lasting Happiness:
And of course, here’s the big one.
It doesn’t just reduce depression, it makes you happy. Even 6 months after you stop the homework.
Happiness guru and author of the book, “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being”, Dr. Martin Seligman himself is very big on gratitude as the central practice to maintain happiness.
If you’re busy “counting your blessings” as studies and your Grandma used to say, then perhaps all the negatives don’t seem so bad after all.
And when that happens, perhaps it no longer becomes something restricted to depression, it turns into a habit that keeps you up and positive.
Even the guys over at the personal-psychology-hacking app, MindFit have Gratitude as a central part of their tools for happiness.
(though they’re probably based on Martin’s work too, to be fair.)
6) JUMP BONUS!: Here are a few techiques from the Signature Strengths Positive Intervention Study (and Martin’s work) that you can use to create some more gratitude, happiness, & health in your own life!
If you follow Dr. Sonja’s advice and do them 1x a week instead of 3x a week, they will work just as well:
1) Gratitude Visit – Write & deliver a letter of gratitude in person or email to someone you are grateful to for anything at all, but never thanked appropriately. (This may be only a short effort. You don’t have to do it 1x/Week if you run out of people.)
2) Three Good Things – Write down three things went well for you no matter how trivial, as frequently as 1x/Day or infrequently as 1x/Week. Your choice. Include an explanation of why they happened. (this is Seligman’s favorite, and one of the most successful.)
3) Signature Strengths – After identifying roughly 5 of your own personal character strengths, Use one of them in a new way 1x/Week.
4) Three Funny Things – Write down three funny things you saw, experienced, or did each week, no matter how trivial. As with 2), include an explanation of why they happened.
5) Counting Kindnesses – Count and report the acts of kindness you do for other people, or the ones you received from them. 1x/Day, or 1x/Week, your choice.
6) The Gift Of Time – Give at least three people you care about in some way gifts of your time by contacting them by phone/email or meeting with them in person 1x/Week. These should be on-top-of your normal schedule, as exceptional, special allocations of your time.
7) One Door Closes, Another Door/Window Opens – Write about an event in your life week when something immediately-perceived as negative in some way actually led to some kind of unforeseen positive consequence.
So there you go!
Now get out there & find some Gratitude for yourself and start improving your health from the inside-out!
Video “Gratitude”, by Louie Schwartzberg
Photo “Thank You Sign”, by Steph P
• Via: TIME