Did you know gratitude is a drug? “If thankfulness were a drug,” Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of the division of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center, says “it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.”
Dr. Doraiswamy’s research has shown that expressing gratitude leads to measurable effects on multiple body and brain systems.
Gratitude Will Help Your Body
Gratitude research shows changes in the following systems:
- Mood neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine)
- Reproductive hormones (testosterone)
- Social bonding hormones (oxytocin)
- Cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine)
- Inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines)
- Stress hormones (cortisol)
- Cardiac and EEG rhythms
- Blood pressure, and
- Blood sugar
It’s National Gratitude Month. Research shows that grateful people are more optimistic and less likely to be depressed, anxious, or stressed. A professor from the University of Illinois at Chicago reports that grateful people may experience fewer stress symptoms like headaches and chest pains. Being thankful also makes us more self-confident and content in our lives.
Tips to Boost Your Gratitude and Change Your Life
Around the holidays it’s common for people to thank your loved ones for their continual love and support. But this sentiment shouldn’t be limited to the holiday season. Get in the practice of always thanking people, especially for the little things. It will not only boost your mood and reduce your stress, it can also be beneficial for the other person. They may acquire a mindful practice of thanking people as well. Gratitude is contagious.
Be Grateful for What You Have
We all have something to be grateful for, whether it is your health, your relationships, or your career. Writing down a list of your blessings can increase your happiness and reduce your stress. Keep a gratitude journal by your bed. Before you go to sleep write down all the new things you are thankful for on a daily or weekly basis. Create a gratitude corkboard where you pin pictures and lists of what you’re grateful for.
Being grateful for the good things in life is only the beginning. It’s also important to find positives and to be grateful in a negative or disappointing situation. Seeing the painful, challenging things in your life as an opportunity for positive outcomes can help you become more grateful in life.
Set Gratitude Reminders
Sometimes when you are experiencing holiday blues it’s easy to forget to be thankful in the chaos. That’s why gratitude prompts are so important. Setting up gratitude prompts can trigger feelings of gratefulness by reminding you of your goals and past obstacles that you’ve overcome. Consider keeping pictures of family, small mementos on your desk or set a timer on your smartphone to remind you to open your heart and be grateful for something every few hours or at least once a day.
Take a Minute Gratitude Break
Taking a five-minute break is important for relieving stress, taking our mind off our problems, and focusing on good things in life. When you find yourself plagued with holiday stress, take a five-minute break to close your eyes, breathe, and meditate on three things you are grateful for. Use these three things to keep you motivated throughout the day.