The Power of Gratitude

November 26, 2019 | By R.Gamiz

Gratitude: The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and return kindness.

Many of us are lucky enough to live in country where we can take things for granted. For the most part we are not concerned if we will be able to feed our kids tonight, will there be power at home in order to cook, is there enough gas available to get me to work tomorrow. For many people on this planet these are all daily realities. We have a lot to be thankful for. There are many reasons why we should be thankful. The practice of being grateful results in improved well-being, better relationships and enhanced health.

We all know somebody that generally complains a lot, they are easily upset, maybe they even think that others working in the same capacity get compensated better, rarely are they grateful for the what they have, or for the friends they have. Now on the other hand do you know somebody who is generally in a good mood, does not complain about what they have and is grateful for their friends and family? Which of these two individuals is more likely to enjoy good health, have good friends and tight relationships? When leaders are looking to promote someone in an organization, who do you think will be looked at first? Gratitude has a direct in impact on our well-being. 

Now let’s talk about health. Studies have shown that being grateful can lower blood pressure,  improves your immune system and your sleep.  Being in a state of gratitude is associated with lower levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and higher HDL (good cholesterol), as well as lower blood pressure both at rest and under elevated stress.  Research has also shown that gratitude lowers levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation linked to heart disease and cognitive decline.

Heart rate variability (HRV), is a measure how well the heart responds to stress and emotions.  This is directly tied to our autonomic nervous system. You can track your HRV and stress levels with your watch now. I personally prefer the Garmin Fenix watches for this. 

There are some sophisticated platforms like HeartMath that can be purchased to help individuals perform HRV training or you can just be grateful. Positive emotions like appreciation lead to heart-rhythm coherence, inner harmony and increased health. Since the heart is the most powerful oscillator in the body, the rhythm set by the heart is capable of entraining other organs to oscillate in synchronicity, much like the pendulum of a clock.

Negative emotions like frustration, rage and jealousy lead to an irregular breathing pattern and irregular heart rhythm which then leads to disorder in the autonomic nervous system. Your state of mind can even alter your immune system. A HeartMath study demonstrated that simply watching a compassion-inducing video of Mother Theresa caused an upregulation in production of immunoglobulin A, Which plays a major in the body’s immune system.

Research has also shown us that those who practice gratitude on a regular basis are also more likely to be healthy, exercise more, have fewer physical problems and feel better overall.  Those with a strong disposition toward gratitude also appear to have a greater capacity to be more empathetic and generous toward others.

It is easy to start:

  • Look for something to be grateful for today: We can all find something to be grateful for today. Could be as small as a smile form a stranger, to that someone let you go first in line. The more you look for something to be grateful for the more things to be grateful for that will show up in your life. 
  • Start a gratitude journal: Several studies show that daily journaling results in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, and energy. Journaling is a great way to bring the good things into focus, shifting your thinking from the negative to a more positive perspective. Knowing that you have to write it down will make you look for it.
  • Make your entries at least once or twice each week. It is better to make a conscious decision to be happier and write with motivation a couple of times per week than to quickly jot down 5 things each day. It is in the elaboration, reflection and focus that shifts begin to happen.
  • Focus on the people to whom you are grateful as much as events or things.
  • Be mindful of your self talk when things don’t seem to be going your way. Next time you begin to worry, ask yourself, “Am I all right, right now?” Then declare, “I am all right, right now.” Feel it to your core. Each affirmation will create a positive feeling and help you let go of fears. 

For more information:

The Current and Future Role of Heart Rate Variability for Assessing and Training Compassion.

Cardiac coherence, self-regulation, autonomic stability, and psychosocial well-being.

The effects of optimism and gratitude on adherence, functioning and mental health following an acute coronary syndrome.

A pilot randomized study of a gratitude journaling intervention on HRV and inflammatory biomarkers in Stage B heart failure patients.