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4 Ways Gratitude Improves Your Physical Health

By Chris Brown

Your mother's refrain of "be grateful for what you've got" may not have just been a catch-all phrase to stop your complaining but a life lesson for future health. Over the last 20 years, the power of gratitude has revealed physical and emotional benefits. Multiple studies have found that practicing gratitude -- such as writing in a gratitude journal, for instance -- can improve your heart health, reduce your aging, and make you feel and sleep better daily. There are four main physical benefits to adding a bit more gratitude to your daily life.

Gives You Longer, Deeper Sleep

In two separate studies, participants who wrote in a gratitude journal found improved sleep quality and length after as few as two weeks of practice. This improved sleep extends even to those suffering from chronic pain. Another study of over 400 chronic pain sufferers found that grateful individuals had fewer incidents of pain-related insomnia.

Reduces Daily Aches and Pains

Although studies have seen mixed results, a multitude of research has supported the idea that gratitude can reduce daily physical pain. This includes one study of college students in which those who wrote about things for which they were grateful (once a week for 10 weeks) experienced an array of physical symptom regression, including reduced headaches, nausea, and muscle soreness. Other studies have revealed similar benefits, along with clearer skin and decreased stomach pain.

Makes You Younger

According to UC Davis psychology professor, Robert Emmons, a daily gratitude journal can keep you and your brain young. He stated, in an article for Today, that those who practiced a long-term, daily gratitude journal activity had 23 percent lower levels of cortisol than the control group. Cortisol is responsible for increasing body-wide inflammation, which wears and ages the body (for example, by accelerating skin aging and wrinkles). Emmons draws the conclusion that gratitude's ability to suppress cortisol may allow it to reduce aging in the brain as well.

Strengthen Your Heart

Practices in gratitude don't just sooth your emotional heart, but can lower inflammation in your physical heart as well. Lowered heart inflammation has been revealed in multiple studies of gratitude practices, as well as lowered blood pressure, reduced biomarkers for heart failure, and improved heart rate variability (the fluctuations of time between heartbeats). In fact, lowered blood pressure resulted from only two weeks of daily gratitude journaling by one study's participants. The heart benefits of gratitude seem to even extend beyond general heart health into heart strength and recovery. The "Gratitude Research in Acute Coronary Events" study found that heart attack sufferers who were more grateful had increased odds of improved blood vessel function two-weeks after their incidents.

Whether keeping a gratitude journal or just thinking gratefully in silence or prayer, practices in gratitude can enhance your mental and physical wellbeing.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Jacksonville Beach, Fla.

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