With Thanksgiving upon us here in the U.S., you may find yourself reflecting on what you’re thankful for. And while this is a lovely way to celebrate the holiday, it’s a tradition worth extending all year long, thanks to the many health benefits associated with gratitude!
That’s right: gratitude is more than a feel-good tradition. It has been shown to improve your wellbeing, and it’s something you can access anytime - no pills, doctor’s visits or expensive procedures necessary.
How does gratitude impact your health?
A regular gratitude practice can enhance your psychological and physical wellbeing, and has even been shown in some studies to alter biomarkers of risk for cardiovascular disease. It also impacts quality of sleep, decreases the risk of heart disease, and improves adherence to positive behaviors, making it a low cost method for improving overall health!
In terms of mental health benefits, gratitude has proven benefits for reducing depressive symptoms. Evidence also supports that a simple gratitude practice enhances health in older adults struggling with loneliness.
One benefit in particular that deserves a spotlight? Gratitude’s impact on stress. Cultivating appreciation can help negate the negative effects of stress, which if left unaddressed can increase inflammation, weaken the immune system, and adversely affect your microbiome.
And this works two ways: since 90% of serotonin is created in the gut, balancing your gut health can actually contribute to experiencing more positive emotions and gratitude in your daily life.
3 ways to incorporate gratitude into your everyday life
Pretty great results from something that’s easily accessible, right? Here are some simple ways to get started with a gratitude practice, adding another tool to your health toolbox:
- Keep a journal: Spend a few minutes at the start or end of your day to write about what you’re grateful for. Sometimes we need an intentional practice to make a habit of cultivating gratitude, and listing out a few things (or even just one simple thing on days that feel tough!) can be helpful to get started. If journaling is not your thing, use an app like Gratitude, or simply pull out the notes app on your phone and type out something simple you’re grateful for whenever it comes to mind.
- Create a gratitude jar: This is a fun one especially if you have kids or a family working on a collective goal of celebrating gratitude. All you need is a large jar or bottle, plus a pad of paper and a pen. Every time you feel especially thankful, write out what you’re thinking of and put it in the jar. Bonus: read through and reflect on everything you were grateful for at the end of the year or on Thanksgiving!
- Share your gratitude: Conjuring up what you’re grateful for on your own is important, but it can be really powerful to share it with someone else. Perhaps you’re feeling thankful for your partner, family members or friends - tell them! Or maybe it’s your co-workers or neighbors. Even your pets could use a little love. The more you tell others how appreciative you are, the better you’ll feel (and the more health benefits you’ll experience too!).
While it may seem simple, the research is there: gratitude can absolutely have a positive impact on your health. And this week is a perfect time to begin your daily gratitude practice!
On that note, all of us here at BiotiQuest are thankful for YOU! And we’re wishing you a happy, healthy Thanksgiving filled with love, nourishing food, and cheer.
Martha Carlin, is a “Citizen Scientist”, systems thinker, wife of Parkinson’s warrior, John Carlin, and founder of The BioCollective , a microbiome company expanding the reach of science and BiotiQuest, the first of it’s kind probiotic line. Since John’s diagnosis in 2002, Martha began learning the science of agriculture, nutrition, environment, infectious disease, Parkinson’s pathology and much more. In 2014, when the first research was published showing a connection between the gut bacteria and the two phenotypes of Parkinson’s, Martha quit her former career as a business turnaround expert and founded The BioCollective to accelerate the discovery of the impact of gut health on all human disease. Martha was a speaker at the White House 2016 Microbiome Initiative launch, challenging the scientific community to “think in a broader context”. Her systems thinking background and experience has led to collaborations across the scientific spectrum from neuroscience to engineering to infectious disease. She is a respected out of the box problem solver in the microbiome field and brings a unique perspective to helping others understand the connections from the soil to the food to our guts and our brains.
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