- I have been working in chronic pain for over two decades. I thought I had heard it all. Rubbing WD-40 on an aching back. Eating spicy peppers. Clearing your chakras. I am all for folks experimenting with whatever they feel will help their pain. But when I heard that gratitude helped pain, I really wondered, "how am I going to sell that!!?" Somehow convincing people who were in pain to be grateful seemed a stretch.
Then I looked at the research on gratitude and health. And I have to say I was IMPRESSED! Here are some amazing facts about gratitude. If these don't convince you to start a gratitude practice I don't know what will! When people tell me that they "don't have time" for things like going to the gym or doing yoga I often recommend a gratitude practice. While it won't lift your butt or make you bend like a pretzel it does have a lot of the benefits of exercise plus a few more!
- Gratitude is related to a 10 percent improvement in sleep quality in patients with chronic pain, 76 percent of whom had insomnia, and 19 percent lower depression levels.
- Keeping a gratitude diary for two weeks produced sustained reductions in perceived stress (28 percent) and depression (16 percent) in health-care practitioners.
- Gratitude is related to 23 percent lower levels of stress hormones (cortisol).
- Practicing gratitude led to a 7-percent reduction in biomarkers of inflammation in patients with congestive heart failure.
- Two gratitude activities (counting blessings and gratitude letter writing) reduced the risk of depression in at-risk patients by 41 percent over a six month period.
- Dietary fat intake is reduced by as much as 25 percent when people are keeping a gratitude journal.
- A daily gratitude practice can decelerate the effects of neurodegeneration (as measured by a 9 percent increase in verbal fluency) that occurs with increasing age.
- Grateful people have 16 percent lower diastolic blood pressure and 10 percent lower systolic blood pressure compared to those less grateful.
- Writing a letter of gratitude reduced feelings of hopelessness in 88 percent of suicidal inpatients and increased levels of optimism in 94 percent of them.
- Grateful people (including people grateful to God) have between 9-13 percent lower levels of Hemoglobin A1c, a key marker of glucose control that plays a significant role in the diagnosis of diabetes.
1. 2-minute exercise
Think of three things that you are grateful for: that benefit you and without which your life would be poorer.Then, if you’ve got time, you can think about the causes for these good things.
And that’s it.
2. Simple steps
Try one or more of these grateful steps to happiness to take the 2-minute exercise a little further. They include:
- keeping a gratitude journal,
- using your senses to notice what’s around you
- remembering bad times to help provide a realistic frame for current events.
Go ahead and give it a try. All you have to lose is pain and suffering.
Yours in health,