Scientists Show How Gratitude Alters The Human Heart & Structure Of The Brain

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Scientists Show How Gratitude Alters The Human Heart & Structure Of The Brain
Scientists Show How Gratitude Alters The Human Heart & Structure Of The Brain. Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com. Photo © Shutterstock 223186420 (under license)

Do you often say “thank you,” appreciate people in your life and count your blessings? Well, it turns out the implications are more than just politeness: A study from the University of California recently showed that gratitude has a significant positive impact on mental health.

Scientific Study Into Health Effects Of Gratitude

The study recruited almost 300 adults who had mental health issues such as depression. Participants were randomly divided up into three groups. All the groups undertook counseling services, but the first one had additional instructions to write a gratitude letter to another person every week for a period of three weeks. [2]

The second group was instructed to pen down their intimate feelings and thoughts about negative experiences while the third group had no writing activity. The study found that participants who wrote gratitude letters disclosed better mental health up to 3 months after, compared to those who only received counseling or wrote about negative experiences.

Gratitude writing can be of help for both healthy people as well as those who are struggling with mental health issues. This is because practicing gratitude is a reminder of the truly significant things in life. Often people get held back by the daily stresses they face, and this causes them to take important things for granted. Gratitude practice, however, influences individuals to focus on essential things and in so doing enhances happiness and wellbeing which nourishes the mind, spirit, and body. A happy person can live a longer healthier life and research has confirmed that happy older adults live up to 30 % longer [2] than the unhappy ones.

Benefits Of Gratitude Practice

• Individuals who practice and experience gratitude from others enjoy a greater sense of well-being. gratitude focuses on positive elements of life, and this means that it can counter anxiety and depressive thoughts. This is because anxiety and depression thrive on negativity or unnecessary worrying over occurrences which have adverse effects on mental health. While it might be challenging for people to train their thoughts to be positive, it is worth it.

• Acknowledging positive things has been found to be good for one’s heart. Research carried out on heart failure patients indicated healthier heart rhythms in participants who made conscious efforts in keeping gratitude journals. [3] The participants also reported having better sleep and improved overall wellbeing. This indicates a strong connection to healthy heart conditions.

• Gratitude practice also helps people learn how to cope with stress effectively. Research shows that people who practice gratitude are highly likely to cope with stress in a helpful way. They seek help from others, identify positivity in negative happenings and engage in effective planning. [4] Those who are not appreciative are more inclined to blame themselves, disengage from it, or fall in denial.

• Gratitude helps people to have better sleep, which affects how they act and behave during the day. Focusing on good things allows individuals to have a peaceful and long sleep. People who have high rates of gratitude fall asleep much faster and have a greater duration and quality of sleep. They also show more alertness during the day. [5] Gratitude is a skill that people can cultivate in themselves to fetch its healing benefits.

References:

[1] Mills, Paul J., et al. The Role of Gratitude in Spiritual Well-being in Asymptomatic Heart Failure Patients. Spirituality in clinical practice 2.1 (2015): 5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26203459/

[2] Steptoe, Andrew, and Jane Wardle. Positive affect measured using ecological momentary assessment and survival in older men and women. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108.45 (2011): 18244-18248. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3215003/

[3] Wong, Y. Joel, et al. Does gratitude writing improve the mental health of psychotherapy clients? Evidence from a randomized controlled trial. Psychotherapy Research 28.2 (2018): 192-202. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27139595/

[4] Wood, Alex M., Stephen Joseph, and P. Alex Linley. Coping style as a psychological resource of grateful people. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 26.9 (2007): 1076-1093. https://dspace.stir.ac.uk/handle/1893/12157?mode=full

[5] Wood, Alex M., et al. Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of psychosomatic research 66.1 (2009): 43-48. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19073292/

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