The Link Between Gratitude and Wellness

By Heather Darling

With the end of the year upon us it is time for reflection. Let us look at all that we experienced, whether good or bad, and turn it into something positive. How we deal with our life’s happenings can impact our overall health and wellness.

attitude of gratitude

Life is full of challenges and how we as individuals cope with them are very different. There is new research that demonstrates how being grateful can improve a person’s wellbeing. It has helped link positive emotions to overall improved health and wellbeing. Being grateful for all that we have instead of ungrateful or jealous of what is missing, can have many benefits. It allows higher levels of optimism, more frequent happy moods and a higher sense of belonging (The Greater Good Science Center UC Berkeley, 2011)

Practicing different approaches to express gratitude will lead to a better understanding and appreciation of all you do, think and feel. To be thankful will influence your perception of quality of life and all that surrounds you.

How to Achieve Absolute Gratefulness

  • Count your blessings every day: Make a list of all that you are grateful for (it can be one or two items). Review this list daily to remind yourself of your focus and your intention on what you are creating in your life (i.e., less stress, increased love, peace).

  • Begin each day with a positive affirmation and sense of gratitude. State something like, “I am blessed to have a home; I am grateful for my family.” This should be done every morning regardless of the situation, such as being ill. The more grateful you are, the more positive results will transpire. There is growing evidence that what you place your attention on is what you will draw to you and experience. Depression, jealousy, resentment will not bring you what you want. Do not sabotage yourself with negative feelings; nothing good will come of it.

  • Spend a few minutes each day thinking about the things that make you happy. Take a few minutes to give yourself the opportunity to focus on the positive things in your life. This will lead you to a better state of mind.
  • Breathing is important in achieving this sense of awareness. Red Ribbon Breathing: deep, slow, abdominal in-breath followed by a slow out-breath. To know that your breath is abdominal, put your hand just below the navel. Your hand should go up with an in-breath and go down with an out-breath. Ideally, your out-breath is 3 times longer than the in-breath. So, you can count, “one &two” (in-breath), “three, four, five and six” (out-breath). Imagine that you breathe out any unease, pain or discomfort that you may feel inside or hold in your body now. Imagine this discomfort as a long, thin, red ribbon. While breathing out, make your mouth slightly open, making a small “o”-mouth, for the ribbon to get out. This exercise helps to focus on the moment if you follow this for 5-10 minutes. Then, whatever issues you have to tackle, you simply look at them and decide which actions are to be taken in the now. Of course, it is difficult to be 100% present in all moments in life, but our goal is to be present as much as we can.

gratitude

The Act of Smiling and its Impact on Your Health and Wellbeing

Researchers at the University of Kansas have found that smiling creates a positive effect on our happiness and physical health. It can quicken the recovery time after a stressful situation. They studied a group of students during stressful tasks and saw that the students who smiled after words had a quicker reduction of their heart rate than those who did not.

smile 

What is Positive Health?

Positive health is a concept that connects the subjective (what a person thinks/believes), biological (a person’s physical body), and functional (a person’s lifestyle choices) assets and how positive thought impacts health and illness. Dr. Martin Seligman is interested in how these three assets affects one’s health, and is currently investigating answers to the following questions:

  • Does positive health extend lifespan?
  • Does positive health lower morbidity?
  • Is health care expenditure lower for people with positive health?
  • Is there better mental health and less mental illness?
  • Do people in positive health not only live longer but have more years in good health?
  • Do people in positive health have a better prognosis when illness finally strikes?
Through current research conducted at Penn State University by Dr. Martin Seligman, each of the above questions is demonstrating encouraging evidence linking facets of these factors with health and longevity. Dr. Martin Seligman is also researching whether there are other major variables of psychological well-being that should be included with these three assets (2011, Flourish).

As we approach the end of the year let’s reflect on all the blessings in our lives and allow that energy to carry us into the New Year. We have a choice to manifest negativity or focus on the positive things and generate goodness.

thanks