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Gratitude: The Ultimate Health Potion

By: Stef dela Cruz, MDGratitude: The Ultimate Health Potion

Show gratitude because it’s good manners – or so our parents used to say. As children, we learned this much, showing gratitude whenever we received a compliment. We then learned to say thank you for the littlest of favors. We also learned to say a prayer of thanks for the food we ate each day.

Little did we realize that being grateful was actually beneficial to us health-wise. Yes, gratitude is the ultimate health potion!

More than just a soundbite, that supposition is based on a wealth of evidence. Below is proof that being grateful can actually give you plus points in health.

  • Being grateful can help you live longer and happier

Gratefulness is widely perceived as part of good emotional health which, in turn, potentially leads to a longer life, according to a 2000 study by Glenn Ostir and colleagues published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Out of more than 2,000 participants, there was 50 percent less mortality among those with a positive outlook in life during the two-year follow up.

People who were positive – for instance, happy, grateful, and optimistic – also had better functional recovery after a serious health incident, according to a 2002 study by Ostir and team published in the same journal. They were less prone to experiencing disabilities that adversely affected their daily activities – in other words, they probably had a better quality of life overall.2. L

  • Learning to be thankful is associated with less risk for illness

Different studies have shown that a life lived in contentment and gratitude was one with a lower risk for illness and injury. For three weeks, more than 300 participants were asked to rate each day based on different positive and negative adjectives. After being given nasal drops containing viruses that caused the common cold, participants who rated their day-to-day lives negatively developed an infection more than their more optimistic and grateful counterparts, reported Sheldon Cohen and colleagues in a 2003 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

  • A grateful, positive outlook increases your tolerance for pain

Among people with chronic back pain, gratitude intervention led to more happiness and less anger, according to a small study in 2012 by Heidi Baxter and colleagues published in The Australian Journal of Rehabilitation Counselling. Positive emotions, in turn, could help people manage chronic pain.

  • An appreciation of life’s blessings can lower stress hormone levels

A negative attitude was correlated to higher levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, according to a 2005 study by Deborah Polk and colleagues published in Psychoneuroendocrinology. Those with a more positive and content outlook, on the other hand, had lower stress hormone levels.

  • Gratitude helps you bounce back from trauma and tragedy

After experiencing loss, people with more positive emotions moved on more effectively, as evidenced by faster cardiovascular recovery after negative stimuli, according to Michele Tugade and Barbara Fredrickson in a 2004 study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

  • Feeling grateful can improve your compliance to health regimens

Sticking to an exercise program or your medication schedule can be difficult – but Sarah Jaser and her colleagues stated in a 2014 study published in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care that positive emotions, such as contentment and gratitude, make quite an impact on adult health conditions that require behavioral adjustment.

  • Gratefulness develops and strengthens relationships

While positivity is pro-self and improves mood and self-esteem, gratitude is pro-social and increases one’s tendency to focus on someone else.

Proving the separate effects of positive emotions versus gratitude, participants of a 2006 study who thought they received a favor from a specific person were more motivated to do something good than those who thought they received a favor randomly. The study, authored by Jo-Ann Tsang, was published in Cognition and Emotion.

  • A grateful outlook reduces envy and spite

Different experiments revealed similar evidence: Gratitude, by increasing one’s capacity for empathy, led to lower levels of aggression, according to C. Nathan DeWall and colleagues as reported in their 2012 study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Gratitude: free but priceless

The longer you stay grateful, the more benefits you reap, according to a 2005 article by Sarah Pressman and Cohen published in Psychological Bulletin. After all, it usually takes a while before your emotions affect your mind and body.

Make gratitude a part of your daily habit – soon enough, it will be a treasure trove of health benefits!

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