Paul Mills, a professor from the University of California in San Diego, is the lead author of an article on the practice of Gratitude, and its effects on physical health and emotional wellbeing.
I have thought for some time that because – for obvious evolutionary reasons – the body is hardwired to prioritise danger and other bad stuff that happens or might happen to us, that we need to find a way to restore some balance by consciously remembering the good stuff, the stuff we can be grateful for.
It is particularly important for anyone who suffers from periodic episodes of depression, that when we feel “up” we make lists – the longer the better – of the good stuff, so that we have something to buoy us up when we feel “down.”
But this article talks about the physical effects too: “better mood, better sleep, less fatigue and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health.” The study involved 186 men and women who had been diagnosed with asymptomatic (Stage B – structural damage but no symptoms) heart failure for at least three months.
“We found that those patients who kept gratitude journals for those eight weeks showed reductions in circulating levels of several important inflammatory biomarkers, as well as an increase in heart rate variability while they wrote. Improved heart rate variability is considered a measure of reduced cardiac risk,” said Mills. “It seems that a more grateful heart is indeed a more healthy heart, and that gratitude journaling is an easy way to support cardiac health.”
The full study is published by the American Psychological Association here (link to pdf)