Your thoughts can affect the biology of your body.
Think of a fearful, negative thought, and watch your body almost instantaneously contract; your heart-rate increases, perhaps your stomach churns or your chest begins to ache. Sweat droplets may begin to form on your forehead and your palms can get clammy.
So if thoughts and feelings can make you sick, is it possible they can make you healthy as well?
The short answer: Yes.
Think about a time when you were in love, or when you received great news or laughed hard with a friend. These positive emotional states leave us feeling euphoric and energized. We can harness the power of our thoughts and feelings to positively influence every aspect of our lives – including our health, relationships and careers.
But how do we make the shift from stressed to thriving and resilient?
Through the undeniable power of gratitude and love.
The practice of gratitude yields significant benefits to our well-being and can drastically improve our quality of life.
Gratitude can be defined as:
• The quality or condition of being thankful
• A sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life
Benefits of gratitude include:
Expressing gratitude makes us happier. According to a study by Emmons and McCullough, practicing gratitude can increase happiness levels by approximately 25%. Studies prove that those who practice gratitude feel significantly more joy, optimism and satisfaction with their lives compared to people who choose to entertain negative or neutral thoughts more often. The duration of these increases in happiness are not fleeting, but can persist for many months.
Less Stress; More Resilience.
The exercise of gratitude has been proven to mitigate negative states such as stress and depression. Those who practice gratitude are more resilient in the face of adversity and report significantly lower incidences of depression, anxiety and PTSD.
Improved Immune Function
According to Joe Dispenza:
"Being in a state of gratitude, appreciation, and kindness for just 10 minutes a day, three times a day, can strengthen your immune system by 50%”
Dr. Dispenza and his team conducted a study at a 2016 workshop in Tacoma, Washington. Saliva samples were taken from 117 subjects at the start of the workshop and then again four days later at the workshop’s conclusion. Immunoglobulin A (IgA), a protein maker indicating immune strength was measured. IgA is an incredibly powerful chemical in our bodies; it is one of the main proteins responsible for healthy immune function and our body’s internal defense system again bacteria, viruses, fungi and other organisms. It’s so powerful that it’s better than any flu shot or immune system booster you could possibly take. When stress levels increase, IgA decreases. Our immune systems are intimately tied to our mental and emotional health.
During the four-day workshop, study participants were asked to move into an elevated emotional state such as love, joy, inspiration or gratitude for nine to ten minutes three times a day. The results? Average IgA levels shot up by 49.5%!
Considering this, you may not need a pharmaceutical or exogenous substance to heal you. You have the power to boost your immune system through positive thoughts and feelings alone. Something as simple as moving into an elevated emotional state like love, joy or inspiration for five to ten minutes a day can produce outstanding changes in your health.
Practicing gratitude has been proven to help people fall asleep faster, remain asleep for longer, and wake feeling more refreshed. A study that included over 400 adults, forty percent of whom had sleep disorders, found that quality of sleep was greatly improved by gratitude5.
Better Overall Physical Health
Gratitude has been proven to yield a host of physical health benefits; from faster recovery time post surgery, to higher energy levels and feelings of vitality, gratitude undoubtably makes us feel good both mentally and physically.
How To Be More Grateful In Your Own Life
Incorporating gratitude in your life can be easy and timeless. Here are some tips to get you started:
Select A Time
Make gratitude a part of your daily routine – like brushing your teeth. Select a routine time each day to practice gratitude, such as immediately upon waking, on your commute to work, or at bedtime. Having a pre-determined, structured time makes you more likely to commit to the practice long-term. Overtime, gratitude will become an effortless habit – something you just instinctively do!
Take 5 minutes
You don’t need to spend hours each day sitting in grateful contemplation. All it takes is 5 minutes. Take 5 minutes to think of, or write down 3-5 things you are grateful for. As you make your list, really think about why you are grateful for these things and let yourself marinate in the positive emotions they elicit.
Go Big. Or Small.
Most people think they can only be grateful for the big things like a marriage proposal, house or new job. But really we can learn to cultivate gratitude for the small yet beautiful things that make life worth living– like our children’s laughter, a hot cup of tea, or a warm bed to sleep in. Think about the people in your life and relationships you cherish. Grabbing a coffee with a friend, having lunch with your sister, cuddling up with your partner on the couch and watching a movie – these moments are truly so special and make life rich! Our lives are filled with blessings we unknowingly take for granted.
Tune into your Heart
Practicing gratitude as suggested will put you into a state of heart coherence.
What’s heart coherence? We are in a state of heart coherence when we feel positive emotions like love, gratitude, appreciation, joy, laughter and awe. In these positive states, our hearts send harmonious, high quality, health promoting signals to our brains and nervous system. These coherent signals support health and our overall well-being. In contrast, when we are stressed, our hearts send chaotic and erratic signals to the nervous system, which taxes our physical body, depletes our mood and weakens our cognitive abilities. Practicing gratitude positively affects your entire body – from your immune system to your heart and brain!
Envol Can Help
Envol can assist you in your gratitude practice. Envol provides you with tailored recommendations which will increase your feelings of gratitude and zest for life! The app offers you uplifting guided meditations like the Smile and Heart-centered tracks, as well as a long list of affirmations to help you tap into feelings of appreciation and love.
Practicing gratitude does not have to be overly complicated or time consuming. For just 5 minutes a day, tuning into feelings of thankfulness and appreciation can boost your mental, emotional and physical well-being.
- Emmons RA, McCullough ME. The Psychology of Gratitude. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2004.
- Kurtz JL, Lyubomirsky S. Towards a durable happiness. In: Lopez SJ, Rettew JG, eds. The Positive Psychology Perspective Series. Vol 4. West-port, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group; 2008 :21–36.
- McCullough ME, Emmons RA, Tsang J. The grateful disposition: a conceptual and empirical typology. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2002; 82: 112–127.
- Seligman MEP, Steen TA, Park N, Peterson C. Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions. Am Psychol. 2005; 60: 410–421.
- Wood AM, Joseph S, Lloyd J, Atkins S. Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. J Psychosom Res. 2009 Jan;66(1):43-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.09.002. Epub 2008 Nov 22. PMID: 19073292.
Written by Alex Marynczak from Envol team