Randy presents health talk on gratitude and health to seniors. Did you know there was a correlation between feeling grateful and your health, you can even lower your blood pressure, prevent heart attacks, and improve your sleep by expressing gratitude on a daily basis.
Gratitude – the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; a
general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation.
The majority of experiential studies indicate that there is an association
between gratitude and a sense of overall well being.
“We know that grateful kids are happier [and] more satisfied with their
lives,” explains Hofstra University psychology assistant professor Jeffrey
Froh. “They report better relationships with friends and family, higher GPAs, less materialism, less
envy and less depression, along with a desire to connect to their
community and to want to give back.”
In a study of early adolescents, Froh found that kids who journaled daily
about their good fortune, over a period of two weeks, were less prone to
depression and more satisfied with their lives overall. And that optimism
and satisfaction made them more likely to take care of themselves
physically in the long-term.
That’s not all. It’s also believed to boost immune systems and lower blood
pressure over time. In a Temple University study, patients with
hypertension lowered their blood pressure just by calling a “gratitude”
hotline everyday. If it’s that effective on adults with health problems,
imagine what announcing the good things in life at early age can do.
One study showed that the gratitude group also reported getting more
sleep, spending less time awake before falling asleep and feeling more
refreshed in the morning.
In a related study, researchers at the University of Connecticut found
that gratitude can have a protective effect against heart attacks.
Studying people who had experienced one heart attack, the researchers
found that those patients who saw benefits and gains from their heart
attack, such as becoming more appreciative of life, experienced a lower
risk of having another heart attack.
The research on gratitude challenges the idea of a “set point” for
happiness, a belief that, just as our body has a set point for weight,
each person may have a genetically-determined level of happiness. The set
point concept is supported by research that shows that people return to a
characteristic level of happiness a short time after both unusually good
and unusually bad events. But the research on gratitude suggests that
people can move their set point upward to some degree, enough to have a
measurable effect on both their outlook and their health.
Summarizing the findings from studies to date, Emmons says that those who
practice grateful thinking “reap emotional, physical and interpersonal
benefits.” People who regularly keep a gratitude journal report fewer
illness symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole, and are more
optimistic about the future. Emmons conclusion is that gratitude is a
choice, one possible response to our life experiences.
Pyschologist Robert Emmons, author of the book “Thanks!” explains it this
way: “Our emotional systems like newness, [but] we adapt to positive life
circumstances so that before too long, the new car, the new spouse, the
new house-they don’t feel so new and exciting anymore. Gratitude makes us
appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of
something, we extract more benefits from it. ”
HOW TO INCREASE YOUR GRATITUDE
If you would like to increase the level of gratitude in your life, here
are four suggestions for getting started.
Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal
This is probably the most effective strategy for increasing your level of
gratitude. Set aside time daily to record several things that you are
grateful for. (Typically, people list three to five.) You can write when
you get up or at the end of the day. Pick a time that you will
consistently have available. The important thing is to establish the daily
practice of paying attention to gratitude-inspiring events and to write
them down. In Emmons’ words, the act of writing “allows you to see the
meaning of events going on around you and create meaning in your own
Use Visual Reminders
Two obstacles to being grateful are forgetfulness and lack of awareness.
You can counter them by giving yourself visual cues that trigger thoughts
of gratitude. Emmons says he puts Post-It notes listing his blessings in
many places, including on his refrigerator, mirrors and the steering wheel
of his car. Another strategy is to set a pager, computer or PDA to signal
you at random times during the day and to use the signal to pause and
Have a Gratitude Partner
Social support encourages healthy behaviors, because we often lack the
discipline to do things on our own. Just as you may be more likely to
exercise if you have an exercise partner or participate in a class, you
may be able to maintain the discipline of gratitude more easily if you
have a partner with whom to share gratitude lists and to discuss the
effects of gratitude in your life. Emmons says, “If we hang out with
ungrateful people, we will ‘catch’ one set of emotions; if we choose to
associate with more grateful individuals, the influence will be in another
direction. Find a grateful person and spend more time with him or her.”
Change Your Self-Talk
We all carry on an inner dialogue with ourselves that is often called
“self-talk.” When this inner conversation is negative, our mood is usually
low. Research has shown that we can change our mood by changing the tone
of the things we say to ourselves.
HOW TO SHOW YOUR GRATITUDE
Send a hand-written thank you note
Many say thank you by phone or when you get a gift. Although the gesture
is still appreciated, there’s something extra-special about getting a
hand-written thank you note; maybe it’s that so few do it anymore. Next
time you have a reason to thank someone for doing a certain gesture,
consider sending a note in the mail.
Give a card and gift for no reason
When someone has been going through a tough time, accomplished a goal, or
did something nice for you, send a card in the mail with a gift card
attached. It can be something as simple as a $10 gift card to a local
coffee shop, but the gesture alone can mean a lot.
If a loved one took you out for coffee, drinks, or dinner when you needed
to talk or just go out for a good time, return the favor by taking that
person out to the same place. You don’t even necessarily have to wait
until it’s needed; it could just be a fun outing for the two of you.
Give someone a break
Chances are you know someone who could use a break — maybe the person has
been sick for a few days and can’t make it to the store. If this person
has gone out of their way for you when you needed a break, show your
gratitude by helping out in return.
Give Items Away
If there are any items you no longer need, even something as seemingly
simple as cardboard boxes, ask around to see if anyone needs them instead
of throwing them out. There are also quite a few online sites that have
sections where people can give away items for free to those that could
make use of them. The chance to receive free items can be especially
useful for those that are experiencing a financial hardship.
Sending a note, offering your help, even surprising someone with their
favorite coffee — no gesture of gratitude is ever too small. You’d be
surprised how big of an impact a gesture of gratitude can have.