Can keeping a gratitude journal prevent you from having a heart attack?
Several researchers have discovered a connection between gratitude and heart health and are digging deeper to discern the how and the how much.
A significant body of research reveals a link between gratitude and physical health – think connection, not causation.
Grateful people, for instance, experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier, according to a 2012 study (https://www NULL.psychologytoday NULL.com/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude). They’re also more likely to do health-positive things like exercising and getting regular check-ups.
Grateful, Complaining or Random
Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough looked at the gratitude-health connection by having study (https://www NULL.health NULL.harvard NULL.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude) participants write a few sentence each week on an assigned topic. Depending on their group, participants reflected on things that happened during the week for which they were grateful, things that irritated them, or things that affected them with no emphasis on positivity or negativity.
Ten weeks later those who wrote about gratitude didn’t only feel more optimistic and better about their lives. They also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than the aggravation-focused group.
A Grateful Heart is (Likely) A Healthy Heart
Researchers at the Center of Excellence for Research and Training in Integrative Health at the University of California, San Diego are studying the connections between gratitude and heart health.
Paul J. Mills and Laura Redwine report (https://greatergood NULL.berkeley NULL.edu/article/item/can_gratitude_be_good_for_your_heart?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=1d8d1d671a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_10_25&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-1d8d1d671a-51970887) that “expressing gratitude isn’t just good manners. If you’re suffering from cardiovascular disease, gratitude may just help save your life.”
In a study on the impact of keeping a gratitude journal for two months, Mills and Redwine conducted a randomized controlled trial among patients with heart failure.
They found that patients who engaged in gratitude journaling – while receiving their usual medical care – showed reduced markers of heart inflammation as compared to patients who only received their usual medical care.
Mills and Redwine suspect gratitude helps the heart because, by facilitating positive evaluations of event, gratitude is likely incompatible with negative views of the world, oneself, and the future, beliefs associated with depression.
Gratitude, Good. New Habits, Tricky.
Starting a new habit like keeping a gratitude journal is great.
Maintaining a habit, even a positive one, can be a challenge.
One of the intentions of Begin with Thanks is to help you learn a variety of ways you can boost your gratitude habit.
Another intention? To help you stick with your new habit by practicing it in a small, supportive, like-minded group.
There’s no guarantee that joining Begin with Thanks will prevent you from having a heart attack, but it is intended to help you:
- learn how practicing gratitude can boost positive emotion, strengthen community and serve as the foundation for sustainable well-being,
- connect with a group of like-minded others, and
- practice ancient and modern tools that will help you infuse your life with gratitude and create a practice that’s right for you.
In short, you will learn and practice how to cultivate a grateful heart.
Which may just make your physical heart more healthy.
Begin with Thanks starts soon.
Sign up today.
image: unsplash; used with permission