You’ve probably experienced the ways practicing gratitude is good for your heart in the figurative sense. Thanking someone for their kindness or offering gratitude to a higher power brings peace to our spirits, when done mindfully. Numerous studies have shown the positive effects of gratitude on mental health. The more we express it, the more likely we are to make friends and bounce back from challenges, and the less likely to experience depression. Even our self-esteem gets a boost!
But did you know that giving thanks is actually good for your physical, beating, blood-pumping heart as well?
A 2015 study conducted at the University of California, San Diego found that when people who had heart failure and heart disease kept a gratitude journal for eight weeks, they experienced reduced inflammation and increased heart rate variability (a sign of better heart health). They also had better mood, better sleep, and lower levels of fatigue–all factors that could help them prevent or bounce back from heart attack. A follow-up study confirmed these findings.
The benefits of gratitude on the physical heart are closely related to–or even stem from–the benefits to the emotional “heart.” Because stress is such a critical factor in the development of heart disease, observing a stress-relieving practice like keeping a gratitude journal can make a major difference in our risk. What a simple exercise to make such a meaningful impact on heart health! Giving thanks may be the easiest, do-anywhere tool you have at your disposal for well-being, both physical and mental.
So don’t let your thanksgiving end after Thanksgiving. The holiday season is the perfect time of year to start a gratitude journal or other thankfulness practice. Perhaps you make a commitment to count your blessings rather than check your phone at a red light. Or jot down one thing a day you’re thankful for in a visible place in your home. Or try a quick gratitude meditation from Youtube. Whatever little practice suits your style, you can be sure that giving heartfelt thanks will result in heart healthy benefits.