Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude always makes one feel better but the following list is some of the ways it’s been proven to help.

  1. Gratitude opens doors to more relationships in one’s life. A 2004 study in Emotion found thanking new acquaintances make them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. Be sure to send that thank you note and acknowledge someone holding the elevator door or letting you step ahead of them in line!
  2. Gratitude enhances physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other folks, a 2012 study in Personality and Individual Differences. They also have better self care practices, exercise more often and follow through on regular check-ups.
  3. Gratitude improves psychological health and reduces toxic emotions such as envy, resentment, frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a researcher who conducts gratitude studies, says it increases well-being and happiness and decreases depression.
  4. Gratitude enhances empathy and decreases aggressions. A 2012 study by the University of Kentucky found that people with a conscious sense of gratitude were more likely to behave in a prosocial manner and less likely to retaliate to negative interactions or feedback. They also had increased sensitivity, empathy and a decreased desire for revenge.
  5. Gratitude helps you sleep better. Keeping a gratitude journal 15 min. before bed has shown to promote better quality sleep found a 2011 study in Applied Psychology and Well-Being.
  6. Gratitude increases self-esteem. A 2014 study in the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology found that athletes with gratitude practices had higher self-esteem which tended to translate into higher performance. It also reduces social comparisons, a mine field for shaky self-worth, and helps one to appreciate other’s accomplishments.
  7. Gratitude increases mental strength, decreases stress and helps overcome trauma. A 2003 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found gratitude to be the major contributor to resilience after the terrorist attacks on September 11. Noticing what one does have to be grateful for, even during the worst times, fosters resilience.

*Adapted from Psychology Today

Happiness and the Role Gratitude Plays

So it turns out our brains aren’t wired to see the “glass half full.” Instead there is the negativity bias. Thousands of years back it gave humans the advantage by training the brain to see the danger signs and avoid harm or death. Now it means we are hardwired to notice and store negative experiences more than positive ones. Negative and positive comments are actually processed in different hemispheres of the brain and the negative ones typically require more processing and attention setting the stage for even further rumination. There are some strategies to overcome this bias. Taking the time daily to look for something that makes you smile, laugh or cultivates feelings of love or gratitude and taking a photo. Look at the photo at the end of the day, and again at the end of the week all together. This process trans the brain to watch for moments to capture, refocusing one’s attention on the positive, meaningful parts of the day and away from stress and negativity.

Another technique is a centering exercise designed to shift thinking from “I’ll be happy once all the great things I want to happen, happen,” which pushes happiness into the future rather than noticing what is currently pleasant and positive in one’s life. Mindfulness meditation, which has been shown to increase activity in the left part of the frontal region or the brain the area responsible for positive emotions like optimism. Ralph De La Rosa, meditation teacher, therapist and author of The Monkey is the Messenger, suggests the the “5-3-1-1” practice first thing in the morning. While in bed, take five slow, steady, conscious breaths. Think of three things you’re grateful for. Smile one real smile. Set one intention for your day. Developing simple but positive habits like this not only set a clear tone for the day, help you be more present and optimistic it may also help boost energy levels and work performance. When you focus on the present good, you’re actually more likely to excel!

Some Thoughts on Gratitude

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I find myself thinking more and more about gratitude and the role it plays in our lives. Most of us can easily identify big moments of gratitude whether in the form of protection; a near miss of a collision while driving, a clean and clear outcome on a health screening, the birth of a healthy baby, as well as things going our way with promotions/salary increases, getting accepted to our top college pick, approval on the financing for the purchase of our dream house. But what about the quieter, more subtle moments? How many of us truly begin and end our days with consistent thoughts of gratitude? What about the spaces in between. How often do we notice all the objects in our midst that help accommodate our lives? I love what Mr. Iyengar says about attachment (raga), the fusion and over identification between the ego and an object in it’s possession. It is so easy to become attached to objects due to status, beauty or even deep personal meaning. Iyengar advises that the correct attitude to our possessions is gratitude, not ownership. For example toward our car we are grateful that it transports us safely and allows us to see places we would not otherwise have seen, rather than being an extension of self, displaying status, style or privilege. This computer I’m typing on is an instrument of communication and a means of expression instead of the slickest new technology I’m cool enough to posses. Whether it is “my” car or computer is irrelevant.

In India there is a annual ceremony in which participants garland their household objects and thank them for the service they render. This ritual conveys a belief that they “borrow” the object’s services for a certain time and are grateful. It’s a lovely practice and may prove helpful in reminding us that we are not the sum of our stuff, yet we remain consciously and consistently grateful for the service they provide and the ease they bring.

Thought for the week

In thinking about the presence of stress in our lives, B.K.S. Iyengar reminds us that a certain amount of tension and stress is required for moving and living and that we must differentiate unhealthy levels and negative stress from requisite stress. He explains that the main causes of negative stress are anger, fear, speed, greed, unhealthy ambition and competition, which produce a deleterious effect on the body and mind. “When one does good work with out selfish motives, though there is the stress of work, it is positive, and does not cause the far greater stress that comes from grasping and greed. The practice of asana, (the yoga poses) and pranayama, (the breathing exercises), not only de-stress you, but energize and invigorate the nerves and the mind in order to handle the stress that comes from the caprices of life.” He offers this analogy, “When it rains heavily, the water does not necessarily penetrate the earth. If the surface is dry and hard, the rain water floods the surface and runs off. But if it rains gradually, for many days continuously and the ground is moist, then the water seeps deep into the earth which is good for cultivation and for life. Similarly in ourselves, we must moisten our muscles and nerves through the expansion and extension of the various asana. In this way, the stress that saturates the brain is diffused throughout the rest of the body, so the brain is rested and released from strain and body releases its stress and strain through movement.”

-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life

Combat Stress

As we get older, our bodies are less able to handle the wear and tear caused by stress. The body, especially the brain, has built-in mechanisms to keep stress hormones at the proper levels but as we age, these internal stress-hormone reducing mechanisms gradually become less effective. What to do? Learn and practice strategies to create and maintain an inner calm. Learn how to keep the body’s stress levels stable. They are regulated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which works like a computer to keep the body running automatically. There are two components of the (ANS) which compliment one another, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The (SNS) revs up the nervous system as a protective mechanism referred to as the “flight or fight response.” In balance the (PNS) calms down the nervous system promoting relaxation, rest and sleep. This system is the target of stress reduction techniques. The more we can reduce our bodies undue stress and the more effective we become in instructing the adrenal glands to stop pumping cortisol and other stress hormones through our body, the better we combat accelerated aging. The stress researcher Dr. Hans Selye reports that “After every stressful situation, we become a little older.” Therefore, the older we get, the calmer we need to be.

Excess stress shrinks the brain, ages the heart, weakens the bones, prevents or disturbs quality sleep, makes us sick, inhibits a healthy gut, increases belly fat, and can lead to diabetes. And that’s the condensed list! Chronic, unresolved stress prematurely ages every vital organ.
Stress management is a key health component of centenarians and people who prefer an enjoyable life. Here are a few simple stress striking tips:

*Practice letting go. In yogic terms this is referred to as non-attachment. Choose not to focus on aspects of your life you can’t change. We can’t always control situations, only our responses to them. Know the difference between helpful reflection and destructive rumination. Let go of what has passed.

*Focus on solutions, not problems. Problems inevitably arise. Teach and train yourself to greet them as a learning opportunity. They really are. Humans seldom learn from ease and comfort.

*Keep the mini-stressores small. Having to wait in line for a latte or several slow traffic lights is regular life stuff. Stop behaving as if it’s a surprise or of consequence. Let the occasional, real, big issues warrant your concern.

*Redirect negative thoughts. Pre-load your mental/emotional/visceral library with a few vivid memories of relaxing and calming past experiences. Program your mind to reflexively recall these memories in response to stress stimuli, effectively filling your mind “tank” with premium thoughts, preventing negative thoughts from taking hold.

*Breathe… Immediately following a stressor, remind yourself to breathe. Close your eyes if possible, and take several natural, relaxed breaths. Notice the instant calming effects as your (PNS) is increased, allowing more air into the lungs, increased muscle relaxation getting more oxygen into your system. Make a habit of taking a “breath break” 8-10 times per day. It only takes a moment to create such a different and positive physiological effect!

Balance

” In every posture, the body, the mind, action and motion, as well as each breath of the physical, physiological, mental, and intellectual sheaths, have to be evenly balanced.”

                                                                                         -B.K.S. Iyengar from Yoga Wisdom and Practice

 

Repair Berries

Blueberries contain more anti-inflammatory nutrients than most other fruits. The majority of these phyto nutrients, called flavonoids, reside in the blueberries skin. Anthocyanin, is an antirust antioxidant that keeps the brain healthy. Most studies so far, show that blueberries can even reverse the effects of mental aging and improve motor coordination and balance. And there are even more benefits:

* improve neurotransmitter function of the brain

* reduce inflammation throughout the body

* improve blood flow and cardiovascular health

* help reduce the risk of cancer

* decrease belly fat

And they are delicious! So be smart and enjoy a bowl of these little nuggets of health!

Quote for the day

“Most people ask only from their body that it does not trouble them. Most people feel that they are healthy if they are not suffering from illness or pain, not aware of the imbalances that exist in their bodies and minds that ultimately will lead to disease. A yogi never forgets that health must begin with the body. Your body is the child of the soul. You must nourish and train your child. Physical health is not a commodity to be bargained for. Nor can it be swallowed in the form of drugs and pills. It has to be earned through sweat. It is something that we must build up. You have to create within yourself the experience of beauty, liberation and infinity. This is health. Healthy plants and trees yield abundant flowers and fruits. Similarly, from a healthy person, smiles and happiness shine forth like the rays of the sun.”

– B.K.S Iyengar

        Paraphrased from Light on Life

Be smart, protect your brain

How many of us think about our brain in the protective way we consider our heart or lungs? Everyone wants to keep their brain functioning optimally as long as possible, but did you know you have more control over that than you realize?

The average brain loses about 50% of it’s 15 billion brain cells between the ages of twenty – ninety-five.

The brain, like a muscle, shrinks as we age.

Mental ability declines by an average of 20% between ages forty – seventy.

You don’t have to be average!!!

People who make healthy and specific lifestyle choices around this issue greatly improve their odds of avoiding Alzheimer’s disease and maintaining optimal cognition. Behaviors like the following:

Geting a minimum  of 20 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular exercise daily.

Healthy dietary choices emphasizing fish over meat, nuts, leafy greens and berries.

Regularly exercising the brain.

Maintaining an optimistic attitude and laughing.

Learning and practicing consistently, stress reduction exercises and techniques.

If you are interested in learning much more about the ways your brain can lose its prime AND the most important, specific and scientifically proven ways to jeep your brain healthy, contact me for information on the small group programs, upcoming workshops and private coaching options available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Good to be Back

 Greetings everyone, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I apologize for my absence. I have been focussing my attention on continuing education and study. I recently completed a course intensive on Prime Time Health and am so excited to share what I’ve learned with you! This is all science based information compiled to maximize good health, well being and enjoyment during the prime of your life, which is now!! Check in here regularly, for more healthy topics and tips to improve the quality of of your life. You are worth it!!!