It’s usually around this time of year with Thanksgiving right around the corner that we take some time to reflect on all the things that we are thankful for – our health, families, friends, independence. Whatever it is, there is much to be thankful for, and it is important that we be thankful for these gifts all year-round, not just on a holiday one day a year. And as it turns out, being grateful boosts heart health according to a new study published in the Spirituality in Clinical Practice journal.
A Grateful Heart is a Healthy Heart
This study involved 186 men and women who were diagnosed with asymptomatic heart failure, meaning that the left or the right main chamber of the heart does not empty well. The participants took standard psychology tests which rated their levels of gratitude and spiritual well-being. These tests revealed that being grateful for the positive aspects of one’s life led to an improved mental and physical health.
Even though being grateful boosts heart health, this wasn’t the only benefit these participants experienced. According to the study’s lead author and professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California-San Diego Paul J. Mills, “We found that more gratitude in [heart failure] patients was associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue, and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health.”
This is just one more study proving the power of the mind-body connection as being grateful boosts heart health, even if you aren’t at risk of developing any heart conditions.
Daily Reminders to be Grateful
Even though Thanksgiving falls on the last Thursday in November, it is important that we carry the spirit of this holiday with us all year-round. Below are some simple ways that you can be reminded to give thanks every day:
- Wake up grateful. You may have heard the phrase “begin each day with a grateful heart.” From the second you wake up in the morning, be grateful. Every day is a new day, and it is up to you to decide how you’ll go about it. You can fall victim to the Monday Blues, or you can appreciate that you’ve been given another day – the choice is yours.
- Breathe. Feeling stressed throughout the day? Take a deep breath and relax. This simple act can give you a sense of calm and gratitude.
- Practice mindfulness. This is a lot easier than you think, and you may even be practicing mindfulness already! Nature walks, yoga and gardening are all great options. The best part? There’s no right or wrong way to be mindful. Whatever works best for you is the best way to practice mindfulness.
- Gratitude journaling. Journaling has been a rising trend among caregivers, but caregivers are not the only ones who can benefit from this therapeutic exercise. Write down anything and everything you are grateful for, so that way when you’re having a bad day, you have a list ready to remind you of all the good things in your life.
- Give back. One of the best ways to show how grateful you are is to give back to those who are less fortunate. Even though helping others is certainly its own reward, volunteering actually comes with many health benefits, including better overall health, an improved psychosocial wellbeing and longevity.
- Go to bed grateful. If you’ve seen the classic movie “White Christmas,” you know the song “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep).” Before you go to bed, reflect on your day and all that you have to be thankful for.
We all know that a healthy diet and exercise benefit one’s overall health, but that’s no reason to ignore the power of the body-mind connection in promoting your health. So why not be grateful – your heart will thank you!