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How Gratitude Can Be a Blessing for Your Health

By Sandy Schroeder

As the year winds down, most of us are thankful for friends and family, but there may be another gift of health that’s overlooked.

Practicing gratitude may improve life physically, emotionally and mentally, according to one of the world’s leading scientific experts on gratitude, Dr. Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology, University of California, Davis.

Emmons says, “Clinical trials have shown practicing gratitude can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate sleep.”

It cuts the risk for anxiety, substance abuse and depression. Psychologists have found grateful people tend to be fitter, eat healthier, smoke less and drink less alcohol.

Research Results of Practicing Gratitude

  • Keeping a gratitude journal reduced feelings of stress by 28 percent and depression by 16 percent
  • Diet fat intake was cut by as much as 25 percent
  • Stress hormones in the body dropped by 23 percent
  • Writing gratitude letters and listing blessings cut depression in high-risk patients by 41 percent
  • Daily gratitude practices slows down brain aging
  • Blood pressure readings can drop by as much as 16 percent
  • Risk of diabetes dropped from 13 to 9 percent
  • Sleep quality for chronic pain patients improved by 10 percent
  • For the overall population, sleep improved 15 to 18 percent with 20 percent less sleep issues in the daytime
  • Gratitude improves relationships, facilitates new friendships, and strengthens old ones

How to Practice Gratitude

  • Reach out to help friends in trouble
  • Take turns discussing gratitude at the dinner table
  • Integrate gratitude with a period of meditation
  • Keep a daily gratitude journal
  • Tell someone they are loved and appreciated
  • Reconnect with old friends
  • Plan a day outside to appreciate nature
  • Complete a small act of kindness daily
  • Volunteer in a group that helps others
  • Spend quality time with your kids
  • Send gifts and cards to distant friends and relatives
  • When someone helps you, do a favor in return

Get specific and look at your life, your family and your blessings. You may think of ways to use your talents or skills to help others. Community projects often need writers, organizers, photographers and artists. They also welcome household supplies, homemade cookies and cleanup crews. Figure out ways to get your family involved and keep the gratitude ball moving. When kids learn to practice gratitude early, they may continue it throughout their lives.

As Professor Emmons says, “Gratitude is good medicine!”

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Spring, Tex.

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