Gratitude improves Heart Health!
Did you know that cultivating gratitude not only shifts emotional states towards the positive spectrum but it also has profound physiological benefits (Mills et al, 2015). Mills and his research team examined the role of gratitude in veterans with Stage B cardiac disease. Compared to patients in the control group who received standard care, those who kept a gratitude journal for 8 weeks experienced the following: improved sleep, less fatigue, enhanced self efficacy, better heart rate variability and most interestingly, lowered inflammatory markers.
It’s wonderful that allopathic medicine is finally catching up with Eastern Medicine (EM)! A central EM theory is the notion that most internal disease is caused by pernicious emotions and that cultivating a calm Shen (Spirit-Mind, which resides within the heart) is the key to health and longevity. We have a maxim in EM; treat the Shen first. Loving kindness, compassion and contentment through meditation and non-attachment are central to Buddhism. ‘Remember what you have received; forget what you gave.’ and ‘It is better to light one small candle with gratitude than the curse the darkness’ are few key examples of the importance of gratitude in Confucianism.
Gratitude helps us feel more connected. Gratitude helps us be more resonant, unified in the moment, body-mind-spirit.
In my Acupuncture practice, I have noticed that the patients who have a more positive emotional affect do seem to improve more rapidly that those who are more negative. Neuroscience has taught us that our brains are wired to remember negative experiences as survival mechanism. However, we can cultivate neuroplasticity by consciously choosing to focus on gratitude
To cultivate gratitude in your life try gratitude journaling for 5 minutes a day, write down all the things you’re grateful for right before going to sleep. While we sleep our brain ‘learns’ so by focusing on gratitude just before sleep, our brain becomes more attuned to noticing the positive, which improves our emotional and physical wellbeing.
Mills, P. J., Redwine, L., Wilson, K., Pung, M. A., Chinh, K., Greenberg, B. H., Lunde, O., Maisel, A., Raisinghani, A., Wood, A., & Chopra, D. (2015). The Role of Gratitude in Spiritual Well-being in Asymptomatic Heart Failure Patients. Spirituality in clinical practice (Washington, D.C.), 2(1), 5–17.