Gratitude is a practice in many cultures and traditions across the globe. Giving thanks is important everyday, not just on Thanksgiving. When we pay attention to the good in our lives, no matter how small, it helps put our pain and discomfort in perspective and offers psychological and social benefits. And it can also have an impact on our bodies. In a recent study with 70 people with Stage B heart failure, one group kept a gratitude journal and received medical treatment, the second group received just medical treatment. As expected, the gratitude group had increased gratitude scores at the end of the 8 week study. However, the gratitude group also showed reduced inflammatory biomarker index scores and increased parasympathetic heart rate variability. When a person can reduce body inflammation and also live more in their "rest and digest" parasympathetic nervous system, the body benefits greatly. While we can't interpret these results as definitive or causative, there does seem to be an association with gratitude, decreased inflammation markers and increased parasympathetic activity. Hopefully, more studies with larger groups will follow this one. If you'd like to see the article, check out: Psychosomatic Medicine, 78(6): 667-676.
I have so much to be grateful for....good health, incredible family and friends, work that nourishes my mind and soul, wonderful and courageous clients. I am also so lucky to be able to travel and see beauty in nature - whether it be on my walks in the bosque of the Rio Grande River or from a trip to the redwoods of northern California this last September. On a solo hike in the redwoods, I was stunned by the absolute silence I experienced in several sections of the forest. Never before had I been in the woods and not heard birds, bugs or the rustling of the wind. I felt like I was in a sacred cathedral of nature!
Currently, I practice gratitude by paying attention to what works well in my body. Yes, I am noticing the effects of 6+ decades living on this earth, but most of me still works wonderfully well! I can see beauty everywhere, I can hear delightful music and the voices of my family and friends, I can walk and swim and knit! I appreciate how my body continues to keep me alive day and night.....what a gift!
I hope that you, too, can find delight in your day to day life. Whether it is the fragrance of your favorite tea, the steaming warmth of the shower, the company and laughter of good friends or the comfort of sliding between the bedcovers at the end of a day...find something to appreciate...feel the sensations of it and know that this practice benefits you on so many levels.