The holiday season is fast approaching, bringing with it the joys of the season (as well as the stresses)! This time of year brings our focus to family and loved ones, the sharing of joy, and the peace that comes with giving and being grateful for all that is good in our lives. Gratitude can be a simple act of showing appreciation and kindness, but it can also be a wellness practice with incredible impact on our health.
Gratitude and Physical Health
When most of us think of gratitude as a wellness practice, the emphasis tends to be on the mental health benefits. It’s true that gratitude is a cornerstone of mental health management, but it’s just as important to remember that our physical health and mental health are closely linked. When our mind is healthy, our bodies are healthy.
Practicing gratitude has been linked to decreasing inflammation and lowering blood pressure because of slowing the effects of neurodegeneration. Research has shown a connection between practicing gratitude and the release of the oxytocin hormone in our bodies. Oxytocin is what helps us to feel more connected to others and offers the physical benefits of expanding our blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, and improving our cardiovascular health.
Additional studies have also shown that individuals with a healthy gratitude practice are more likely to exhibit other healthy behaviors – like getting exercise and eating more healthfully.
The Benefits of Gratitude on Mental Health
Practicing gratitude packs a one-two punch by increasing positive responses and reducing negative mental health symptoms, for more balanced wellness overall. Gratitude decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression, while increasing feelings of happiness and overall satisfaction. There is a broad spectrum when it comes to anxiety and depressive disorders, but what they have in common is patterns of negative thinking. Building gratitude as a habit and practice of focusing on the positive combats these patterns directly.
Similarly to gratitude’s impact on physical health, the practicing thankfulness and positive thinking can create a solid foundation of mental wellness. Studies have shown revealed that practicing gratitude can instantly create a mood boost in individuals and foster an overall outlook of optimism. To go back to the connection between gratitude and oxytocin, expressing gratitude plays a huge part in connecting us to our communities and helping us feel less alone.
Cultivating a Grateful Mindset
It’s called a gratitude practice for a reason – it takes practice. One study noted that participants did not start to reap the benefits of their gratitude practice before the four-week mark, with an even larger difference being noted at twelve weeks. It takes time to establish the habit of gratitude, but the results are just as long lasting.
Here are some common tips for establishing a gratitude practice of your own:
- Write down what you are grateful for in a list or journal.
- Be consistent. Even if all you can spare is a couple of minutes in the morning or evening, make gratitude a daily practice.
- Pay it forward. Call a loved one or send a thank-you note, sharing your expression of gratitude through community and connection.
- Take a hike. Being outdoors and engaging in light exercise is a massive wellness boost in and of itself. Up the ante by finding moments of gratitude in the beauty of nature.
Sharing This Season of Gratitude and Giving
At Boon, we are thankful and full of gratitude for the continued opportunity to serve our clients and partners. We wish you health and happiness during this season of thanks and giving.
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