The one consistent tool my patients and friends have shared with me, that has helped them through the toughest of times, is the practice of gratitude. Gratitude, the act of recognizing the wonderful in your life, while honoring the negatives, has shown in numerous studies to have many benefits to emotional, mental, and physical health. If we could bottle up all the benefits and advertise it as a pill, gratitude would be a miracle drug. Biologically, gratitude activates an area of the brain’s prefrontal cortex. The more we practice gratitude, the more our brain craves the act of giving. At a molecular level, gratitude releases the neuropeptide oxytocin. Oxytocin is our feel-good hormone, the same hormone released during breastfeeding and orgasms, and the hormone important to bonding and connection.
Here is what gratitude research has shown us:
- Reduced anxiety
- Lower incidence of depression
- Better Sleep
- Improved immune system
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Reduced pain
- Stronger social bonds
- Greater resilience.
The practice of gratitude can take some work, at least in the beginning. Like any health change that becomes a routine, you may need a reminder to practice gratitude. The more you practice gratitude, the more it becomes your go-to tool in times of stress.
Ways to incorporate gratitude in your life (and it will leave you feeling better):
- Keep a gratitude journal, listing 3 things you are grateful for in the morning and/or end of the day.
- Send a text to a friend expressing something you are grateful of in them
- Look anyone in the eye who is helping you – cashier, barista, salesperson - and say, “thank you”.
- Leave a generous tip
- Leave a positive review
- Buy a friend a kombucha, green drink, or get them a chocolate bar – just because
- Share gratitude at dinner. A fun family ritual in our house is our nightly, “rose, bud, thorn”. Rose is the best part of the day, bud is something you are looking forward to, and thorn was the worst part of the day.
- Thank your kids’ teachers and coaches for the work they do
Gratitude is simple, comes in many forms, and can transform your life. Do a simple act of gratitude today and feel free to share it on social media and tag akashacenter, we’d love to see!
My own personal gratitude story:
I will end with a personal gratitude story involving one of my dearest 2nd grade friends, who I never spoke to after moving to Los Angeles in 4th grade (over 30-years ago). I have a memory of her doing something especially kind to me. We were sitting in our auditorium and the kids behind us were upset with me because I was blocking their view (I was a tall second grader). My friend turned around and told the kids that it was not my fault I was tall. She then put her head on my shoulder so the kids behind me could see over her and onto the stage. One recent evening, I was sharing the power of kindness to my oldest daughter, how one simple act of kindness can be remembered forever, like my friend standing up for me so many years ago. After sharing this story, I ended up looking my old friend up on the internet, found her work email, and sent her an email expressing my gratitude for that act. She responded immediately. She did not remember doing it but appreciated that I reached out to share. It felt good to me, it made her feel good, and we have rekindled a friendship.
We would love to hear any stories of gratitude you have to share!
by Dr. Maggie Ney - Director of the Women’s Clinic at the Akasha Center. She specializes in female hormones and healthy aging.