Gratitude Does Your Health Good!

Gratitude has been the foundation of my medical practice and lifestyle for as long as I can remember. It gives the fuel to stay focused, judgment-aware - and curious about who this person sitting in front of me with a medical condition may be.  

Gratitude is the "oxygen "that allows me to breathe in more positivity when the world around me at times seems to be going bananas.

Gratitude is about accepting the negative of the situation while also acknowledging the positives in one's life. Such as, for example, yes, my car was totaled, but my life was spared, as was everyone else's involved. You may have been dealt a bad hand in a particular situation, but there is often at least an area in your life where things are going right. Pay attention to them. Feel the gift of Gratitude that will strengthen you to keep ongoing. 

Gratitude for what is going right allows us to accept what isn't and instead focus on strengthening the good. It keeps your heart open. It is challenging to be in a stream of Gratitude and, at the same time, feel despair for the situation. But Gratitude is not about ignoring what has occurred; It is saying yes to being alive and thus having a chance to fix what needs fixing.

"One of the ways to express Gratitude for my medical practice is to Meet my patients before I meet their Diseases."  - Dr. Edison de Mello 


Practicing Gratitude

Gratitude does not necessarily mean finding the positives of negative situations. It might be a bit much to be thankful for not having your car towed to a junkyard because it was totaled. But feeling grateful that you did not land in the hospital because of the accident is not.  

The body responds to suppressing negative feelings by releasing the stress hormone cortisol. Consistently elevated cortisol weakens our Immunity and makes us more prone to illness and injury. Gratitude is about recognizing the positive things in your life and how they affect you - from acknowledging a garden to being thankful for a loved one recovering from a dangerous illness. Expressing Gratitude for something - either a gift or life itself increases your wisdom. 

When you're feeling too low to change your thoughts about a situation, be careful not to activate old negative pathways. Every time you trigger old negative pathways, you inadvertently strengthen them further. When negative thoughts occur, it is essential to keep an open positive mind until new experiences or thoughts arise. Although you cannot always quickly get from a negative thought to a more positive one, by believing that better days will come through the practice of Gratitude, you can decrease the strength of the negative pathway.


Gratitude, the gift that keeps on giving 

There are many benefits of practicing Gratitude, both mentally and physically. Research has shown that regularly practicing it has been shown to boost the immune system and other measurable positive health effects. 


"When I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for the Universe to grow within me."  -  Ann Vos Amp    


Gratitude has been shown to contribute to an overall sense of well-being. Studies have shown that even in those without despair, who are relatively happy, the practice of Gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that using a Gratitude Journal to write something you feel grateful for, four times a week, for as little as three weeks, creates a positive effect that lasts six months or more, including increased happiness and decreased stress and cortisol levels.

Whereas stress lowers the immune response to potential bodily threats, increased mental well-being can help your body fight it off. According to 2004 research, practicing Gratitude improves many aspects of physical health, including the risk of heart failure. Adding a gratitude practice to your life involves setting aside a particular amount of time, at least 5-10 minutes (the more, the better), to create mind-enriching statements, like "I am grateful for my health, or I love that I can carve time out to be with friends. Keep the statements short to avoid other distracting thoughts.


Improves mental health & Boosts Immunity:

A 2020 study showed that regularly practicing Gratitude

helps ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. An older study from 2003 noted that Gratitude was linked to improved mood in that the practice of Gratitude leads to positive feelings and contributes to a sense of well-being. A 2005 more comprehensive study, which ran for ten weeks, showed that practicing Gratitude had a positive effect on sleep and time spent exercising. It also showed fewer participants reported negative physical symptoms, such as pain, while reporting an increase in connectedness with people and willingness to help others.

Sometimes, it's not our thoughts about the situation the causes problems, but rather the situation itself. An example of this is grieving or loss. In those cases, stay focused on your practice while

acknowledging that you may need to come back to it more often than usual. But be aware, at times, that you may feel too low to get out of a negative thought pattern given a somewhat too challenging situation for the mind to transform it. Don't give up. With consistent gratitude practice, the plasticity of your brain and mind will allow you to change the patterns.


Gratitude Improves relationships

Gratitude improves physical and mental well-being and strengthens relationships; It helps partners feel more satisfied with each other. A 2010 study showed that partners who demonstrated Gratitude toward each other reported increased satisfaction and improved happiness the following day. 

Like any skill, Gratitude will be much easier to incorporate into a negative situation when you practice it consistently. The vital first step is to be grateful, indeed, for anything, big and small in your life. And the next time adversity hits, you're armed not only with knowledge but also neurological resilience. 


Increases optimism

A significant body of research has shown that our thoughts - or the lenses through which we view a situation - determine how we feel about it. And whatever pathways of thought we consistently use in the brain will be the strongest. This means that if you respond to a particular situation with negative thoughts, it will negatively activate the negative pathway imprinting it in your psych.

Whereas actively using our minds to create new positive thoughts pathways will guide us into a more positive experience of that same circumstance.

An optimistic person usually has many health benefits, including healthy aging. According to a 2019 study, Gratitude helps cultivate an optimistic outlook. Again, a 2003 study showed that it only takes about 3 weeks of regular gratitude practice to feel more optimistic about their present lives and the future.


Some of my favorite ways to Practice Gratitude:

  • Practice Random acts of kindness 
  • Pay attention to the little things in life: Gardens, friendship, love from a pet 
  • Tell other people, "Thank you."
  • You" for being kind no matter how small the deed.
  • Gratitude exercises (journaling & Meditation)
  • Don't allow people's bitterness or negativity to affect your inner peace. 
  • Look for the best in everyone and believe and say the best about them,
  • Express Gratitude to someone
  •  Who did something nice for you, even if it was a long time ago.
  • Meditate on the positive aspects of your life
  • Set time aside each day to make a list of what you are thankful for. Start with the tiniest details.
  • And write down even just one thing. On days when you're feeling empty – or just wanting an excuse to smile – go back and read some of your lists.


by Edison de Mello, MD, Ph.D. 

Founder and Chief Medical Officer of the Akasha Center for Integrative medicine in Santa Monica. His New Book, Bloated? How to reclaim your Gut Health and Eat Without Pain is now on Amazon's Best Seller list. Dr. De Mello employs his practice of Gratitude to "Meet his Patients before he meets their Diseases"


Please contact the Akasha Center to schedule a consultation with Edison de Mello, MD, PhD. (310) 451-8880.

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