Sara Love, ND
The simple act of giving thanks can have surprising health benefits. Research has shown that gratitude causes activation in multiple brain regions. This in turn engages parts of the brain's reward pathways, boosting serotonin and dopamine, which help with mood and pleasure.
One study evaluating individuals with neuromuscular disease over a 3 week period found that those that practiced expressing gratitude had more energy, felt more optimistic, slept better compared to individuals who don’t actively take time to give thanks. One study performed at UCLA demonstrated that increased gratitude actually lowered inflammation. Not only this many chronic conditions such as pain, headaches, diabetes, and insomnia can benefit from expressing gratitude.
Taking time to express gratitude is simple. Some easy ways to incorporate gratitude into your daily life is to write a letter or note of thanks to someone you appreciate, ask how someone is doing actively listening to their response, make a photo album of pictures that give joy, take a mindful walk and appreciate the natural beauty around you, and start a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal can be a simple piece of paper where you list 3-5 things you are grateful for on a daily or weekly basis.
There may be some negative impact of gratitude and that is a potential to overlook red flags and lean toward what is referred to as toxic positivity by disregarding all negative experiences. It is important to acknowledge that sometimes bad things happen and we should authentically express that.
During this busy holiday season, take time to express sincere thanks to those around you and actively listen to their stories. It is a wonderful gift that you can give to a person that does not cost a fortune.