THE HEALTHY BENEFITS OF GRATITUDECategory: Newsworthy Notes
We all know that gratitude is a good thing, but here’s a fact that might surprise you: gratitude is good for your body. The concept is simple; a healthy mind equals a healthy body. Since kindness lifts our spirits and warms our hearts, it aids in fighting off, healing and sometimes even curing a plethora of illnesses that ail us. There are many ways to reap the benefits of gratitude; for example, keeping a gratitude journal, praying, meditating or simply saying how you feel.
Gratitude is good for our brains. The hypothalamus is the part of our brain that regulates several of our bodily functions including appetites, sleep, temperature, metabolism, and growth. Studies have shown that our hypothalamus is activated when we feel gratitude or display acts of kindness. Research has also proven that gratitude is also addictive, in a positive way.
In acts of kindness, feelings of gratitude flood our brains with a chemical called dopamine. When we are truly grateful for something (or someone), our brains reward us by giving us a natural high. Because this feeling is so good, we are motivated to feel it again and become more inclined to give thanks, and also to do good for others.
Believe it or not, something as simple as saying ‘thank you’ can decrease pain as well. Studies have shown that keeping a gratitude journal after a surgery or illness increases motivation to exercise and will speed up the recovery process.
Gratitude increases the quality of our sleep, decreases the time it takes to fall asleep and lengthens the duration of our sleep. As mentioned previously, sleep is one of the many vital things controlled by the hypothalamus. When we are thankful, it becomes easier for us to fall into deep, healthy, natural sleep. This, of course, has a domino effect on our health, spreading the benefits of gratitude practices even further. For instance, sleep is connected to many bodily functions, and enough of it can remedy anxiety, depression, pain, and stress. It also boosts our immune systems, meaning we become healthier overall.
Better sleep, naturally, means that we are more relaxed. Relaxation helps to alleviate the stress that one feels in both their personal and professional lives. And we all know that less stress means improved overall health, making gratitude good for our hearts and nervous system too.
Dawn Connelly is the Community Resource Director at Caleo Bay Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in La Quinta, California. They have been members in the Wellness Village since September 2018.