Gratitude, food health may form a self-fulfilling cycle

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Want to be happier and healthier? Try a little gratitude.

That’s easier said than done if you’ve recently suffered a loss, can’t see your way out of a difficult circumstance or face seemingly unsurmountable problems. In that case, please reach out for help — and if you know someone that needs that help, please do what you can.

For the majority of us, however, the grind of daily life makes it easy to overlook the blessings we do have.

Have a roof over your head? A warm place to sleep? Friends and family with which to share a Thanksgiving meal? You’ve got a lot more than many people, even the majority of people around the world.

It’s long been known that grateful people are happier, have better relationships and are more successful in fighting depression and suicidal thoughts, but researchers have evidence gratitude’s power goes far beyond that.

According to the Thnx4 online gratitude journal created by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, 15 years of research indicate good health and gratitude may be connected.

It’s true that the jury is still out whether gratitude causes good health, or good health causes gratitude, but there’s evidence it’s the former.

One study found that grateful people reported fewer health issues such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory infections and sleep disturbances, and another found evidence of fewer physical symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, stomach aches and runny noses.

Those who journaled in the Berkeley project reported better physical health such as fewer headaches, less stomach pain, clearer skin and reduces congestion.

In another study, college students who wrote about things they were grateful for just once a week for 10 weeks reported fewer physical symptoms such as headaches, shortness of breath, sore muscles and nausea than students who wrote about daily events or hassles.

Like most issues, however, a there are conflicting studies on gratitude, such as middle school students who “counted blessings” for two weeks, college students who kept gratitude journals for two weeks and people with neuromuscular disease who reported few or no benefits from expressing gratitude.

Supporters of the gratitude theory point out that the contradictory studies were more short-term than those in supportive studies.

They also point to evidence gratitude can lower risk of developing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, insomnia, heart failure and chronic pain.

There’s obviously a need for much more research and it’s unlikely a “gratitude journal” is the magic bullet that will put legions of doctors and pharmacists out of business.

But there’s little doubt thankfulness -- throughout the year and not just on Thanksgiving -- can have a multitude of positive effects.

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