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A Thank-You a Day…

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

A Thank-You a Day…

…can keep sickness away!
Dr. Christiane Northrup
Dr. Christiane Northrup More by this author
Dec 14, 2009 at 09:00 AM

The health benefits of gratitude, which is really the same thing as love, are an amazing example of just how sturdy the bridge is between the mind, body, and emotions. Research shows that heart-centered feelings associated with gratitude, appreciation, and caring are health enhancing. When you find one thing, however small, to be thankful for and you hold that feeling for as little as 15–20 seconds, many subtle and beneficial physiologic changes take place in your body:

  • Stress hormone levels of cortisol and norepinephrine decrease, creating a cascade of beneficial metabolic changes such as an enhanced immune system.
  • Coronary arteries relax, thus increasing the blood supply to your heart.
  • Heart rhythm becomes more harmonious, which positively affects your mood and all other bodily organs.
  • Breathing becomes deeper, thus increasing the oxygen level of your tissues. 

Other scientific evidence that gratitude improves health comes from research accumulated by Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis. Emmons found that gratitude makes you healthier, smarter, and more energetic. He also showed that people practicing gratitude daily, such as writing in a gratitude journal, reported higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, and energy than those who didn’t.

If all of this happens when you focus for just 15–20 seconds on something that brings you pleasure, joy, or a feeling of gratitude, imagine what would happen to your health if you were able to cultivate thoughts of appreciation on a consistent and regular basis.

Practice Makes Perfect

Cultivating gratitude, like maintaining strong muscles and bones, takes discipline and will. That’s right. It takes practice to feel gratitude and reap its physical and emotional benefits. There are valid physiologic reasons why focusing on gratitude isn’t easy. Physically, we humans evolved along with a nervous system wired to ensure our survival by keeping us alerted to possible danger from the occasional wild animal or violent storm—events that were relatively infrequent within a life span. Now fast-forward that same nervous system to our current era of mass media, when all of the possible dangerous events from the entire planet are beamed into our living rooms day and night. You can see why holding thoughts of appreciation is hard.

Get a piece of paper and list your blessings. Pay special attention to the people who enhance your life on all levels, for example, the checkout person at your favorite grocery store, the FedEx driver, or a sunny, optimistic coworker. This exercise can literally change your life. The more you notice the people and things you are grateful for, the more of them you’ll attract. And thanking those who bestow these blessings enriches your life in ways you never thought possible. And also uplifts them.

In my book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom I wrote, “Thinking with your heart takes practice, but if you faithfully learn to start thinking with your heart and pay attention to areas of your life that bring you joy and fulfillment, over time you will evoke biochemical changes in your body that will recharge your batteries.” In addition to enhancing your energy levels and reducing stress, recognizing and appreciating life’s many blessings is one of the most powerful ways I know of to enhance the immune system, balance your hormones, and promote heart health.

This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. All material in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.

About Author
Dr. Christiane Northrup
Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and the world’s leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. A board-certified OB/GYN physician who graduated from Dartmouth Medical School and did her residency at Tufts New Engl Continue reading