Monday, November 22, 2010

Studies Show Gratitude Enhances Health

 The arrival of Thanksgiving in a few days pinches us to remember that no matter how difficult life may be, we have so much to be grateful for. True—this has been a challenging year for many people—with the economy in dire straits and the ever-increasing pace of existence. But still, most of us have decent shelter, food to eat, a friend or two, and the ability to see beauty and hear music. In fact, most of us have a lot more than that.

Several studies out of UC Davis have found that those who practice gratitude daily experience significant boosts in well-being. In one study, the researchers found that subjects who were asked to write down five things they were grateful for every day scored a 25 percent increase in happiness and optimism. The grateful subjects also exercised an hour-and-a-half more daily, compared to subjects who were asked to write down five hassles every day.

Other studies have found that cardiac patients practicing gratitude had fewer heart attacks, and grateful polio victims slept better. Dr. Lisa Aspinwall at the University of Utah found that subjects asked to practice gratitude maintained higher levels of red blood cells that protect the immune system.

It is a simple practice, to write down your daily five on a gratitude list. Merely thinking of five things doesn’t have quite the power of committing those things to paper and reading the list aloud. If you consider yourself at all a spiritual being, this would seem to be a foundational endeavor—something to do first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Gratitude is a prayer, an offering, an affirmation, and a celebration all rolled into one. That we can feel grateful at all is a gift in itself, a thing of such great beauty and healing light, a miracle.

Here’s my gratitude list for this morning: I am grateful for waking up in one of the most beautiful places on earth, for the gentle breezes and moist morning air, for the roosters crowing in the yard, for being able to write about what moves my soul, for my sweet dog sleeping on the couch, for the deep friendship and support of my life partner, and for being able to share the healing practice of TAT. There’s so much more—but these are the first seven that popped into my brain. Limiting it to five didn’t work this morning. Please feel free to share your gratitude lists here! Let’s inspire each other!

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