Imagine if you could improve your physical and mental energy and health by simply being grateful for your life! Well, there is a large body of research showing how our thoughts and emotions directly impact our physical and mental health and well-being (called the mind/body connection), and gratitude may be one of the most important and impactful of our emotions.
Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness help people cope with daily problems, especially stress, and to achieve a positive sense of the self.
Recent academic studies have shown:
- People who describe themselves as feeling grateful to others and either to God or to creation in general tend to have higher vitality and more optimism, suffer less stress, and experience fewer episodes of clinical depression than the population as a whole. These results hold even when researchers factor out such things as age, health, and income, equalizing for the fact that the young, the well-to-do, or the hale and hearty might have "more to be grateful for."
- Grateful people tend to be less materialistic than the population as a whole and to suffer less anxiety about status or the accumulation of possessions. Partly because of this, they are more likely to describe themselves as happy or satisfied in life.
- In an experiment with college students, those who kept a "gratitude journal," a weekly record of things they should feel grateful for, achieved better physical health, were more optimistic, exercised more regularly, and described themselves as happier than a control group of students who kept no journals but had the same overall measures of health, optimism, and exercise when the experiment began. (Researchers use frequency of exercise as a barometer for general well-being because it is an objective measure that links to subjective qualities; people who exercise three or more times per week tend to have better indicators of well-being, even when health conditions that affect the ability to exercise are factored out.)
- Grateful people are more spiritually aware and more likely to appreciate the interconnectedness of all life, regardless of whether they belong to specific religions.
To increase your energy, health, and well-being, try these Daily Gratitude Rituals:
Gratitude Ritual #1: Sacred Breathing.
Take 5 minutes upon waking to breathe deeply into your abdomen-breathe in to the count of 6, hold for 1, and breathe out to the count of 6. On the in breath, speak silently "I am so blessed," and on the out breath, speak silently "I am so grateful." Repeat this for 5 minutes, and notice how energized and positive you feel. This is a great way to start your day on a positive, high-energy note.
Gratitude Ritual #2: Gratitude Journal.
Take a few minutes at the end of each day to express gratitude for the blessings in your life: your healthy body, your spouse, your children, your job, your home, and for all the lessons you learned that day. This is something you can do together with your spouse and children, speaking your thankfulness aloud, or simply write it down in a gratitude journal.