How Gratitude Affects the Human Body
I’m sure that we as nurses, just like anybody else, are always looking for easy ways to feel better and improve our health. Well, did you know that expressing gratitude can affect the human body?
That’s right! Just by being thankful, we can improve our health!
Healthy Mind Creates Healthy Body
Everything is energy. And all energy is connected. So, it makes sense then that what we think about, we bring about!
When you focus on pain, sadness, anxiety, or fear – what tends to happen? You feel emotionally bad. And then… not sure if you have ever paid this close of attention, but you likely start to feel physically bad.
When I am stuck in a rut of “woe is me” or “life is so hard” – I notice those are the times that my immune system weakens and I often get a cold, headache or upset stomach.
Letting that go for a long time likely leads to more chronic issues and even long term aches and pains.
However, your mind is a powerful thing. In fact, some might argue the most powerful part of our being.
So, why not use that powerful tool for your benefit?
Focusing on gratitude can create a healthier body! How cool is that!?!
Research Supports Gratitude
This isn’t just wishy-washy thinking. Real science backs up this fact that gratitude positively affects the human boy.
Here are just a few ways that science has proven gratitude helps our health:
- The Greater Good Science Center found “participants who kept an online gratitude journal for two weeks reported better physical health, including fewer headaches, less stomach pain, clearer skin, and reduced congestion.”
- In 2009 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted research which showed the “hypothalamus is activated when we feel gratitude.” Why does this matter? The hypothalamus regulates sleep, temperature, metabolism and growth. So, paying attention to what you’re thankful for can increase the likelihood that you will enjoy a deep, restful and restorative sleep. This in turn decreases the chances that you’ll wake up feeling stressed or sad.
- Gratitude even helps the heart! In one study, patients with blood pressure issues focused on being thankful. In just one week’s time, they saw significant drops in blood pressure!
Focus on How You Feel
Science backs up the fact that gratitude impacts the human body. But I know… some of you reading may still be skeptical out there. Totally fine! We’re nurses – we’re taught to ask questions.
Yes, it sounds like a laundry list. Gratitude improves lots of health stuff: hearts, heads, sleep, digestion, mood, energy… the list could go on and on.
But what if you haven’t experienced it? What if you still aren’t sure?
Try it out and see for yourself!
Keep a gratitude journal or set up a daily gratitude practice. Notice how you feel before you begin. Notice how you feel while you are expressing the gratitude (either outwardly or internally, to yourself). Then, notice how you feel 10-14 days after a daily gratitude practice.
It doesn’t take much time at all! But you have to experience it for yourself – in order to believe that it truly works.
And hey… if you find physical and emotional benefits from a routine gratitude practice… why not share this with your patients?
Would love to hear your thoughts on gratitude and any benefits you have seen! Tell us by commenting below, how has expressing gratitude benefited you and your nursing career?
About the Author: Keynote speaker and podcaster, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, HNB-BC partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of the Your Next Shift podcast, Elizabeth supports nursing organizations in celebrating and recognizing their staff in a meaningful way. Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull.