Why gratitude is good for your health
The holiday season is the time of year where we reflect in a positive way and are thankful for what we have. Much of what makes gratitude beneficial for our health is related to positive thinking in general, which is this process is referred to as “positive psychology.” When an individual is thinking positively blood flow changes within the brain, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicate this is why gratitude is so important to our health. One NIH study found that participants who showed more gratitude overall had higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus, the area of the brain responsible for essential bodily functions including eating, drinking, sleeping, metabolism and stress levels. Another study found that individuals who were grateful experienced direct activation in the regions of the brain responsible for producing dopamine, the body’s “feel-good” reward chemical. Dopamine is how the body trains itself to create habits; feeling grateful stimulates a response of “Yes, I want to do that again.”
Here are a few tips to help train yourself to feel more grateful throughout the year.
- Keep a daily journal of things that happened to be grateful for.
- Use visual reminders during the day when you are feeling negative (like photographs of pets).
- Have several friends who are positive and grateful.
- Change how you talk to yourself. Avoid talking negative about others or about yourself.
Being grateful and having a positive attitude is contagious. It is not only good for you but is great for everyone around you!