Practicing gratitude, the simple reminder to count your blessings, can dramatically affect your life. Gratitude has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve your immune system and your sleep. This mind-body practice connects your mindset and your biochemistry. The result is enhanced health and well-being.
The practice of gratitude is associated with lower levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and higher HDL (good cholesterol), as well as lower blood pressure both at rest and under elevated stress. Research shows that gratitude lowers levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation linked to heart disease and cognitive decline.
By measuring heart rate variability, we can analyze how the heart responds to stress and emotions. Negative emotions like rage and frustration lead to increased disorder in the autonomic nervous system and the heart’s rhythm. Positive emotions like appreciation and love produce heart-rhythm coherence, inner harmony and increased health. Since the heart is the most powerful oscillator in the body, the rhythm set by the heart is capable of entraining other organs to oscillate in synchronicity, much like the pendulum of a clock.
Mind states can even alter the levels of immunoglobulin A(IgA), a key player in the body’s immunological defense. A HeartMath study demonstrated that simply watching a compassion-inducing video of Mother Theresa caused an upswing in IgA.
Research shows that those practicing gratitude also are healthier, exercise more, have fewer physical problems and feel better overall – and those with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be more empathetic and generous toward others.
So, begin with these two simple steps:
The Current and Future Role of Heart Rate Variability for Assessing and Training Compassion.
Cardiac coherence, self-regulation, autonomic stability, and psychosocial well-being.
The effects of optimism and gratitude on adherence, functioning and mental health following an acute coronary syndrome.
A pilot randomized study of a gratitude journaling intervention on HRV and inflammatory biomarkers in Stage B heart failure patients.