A social media trend that’s stuck around over the past several years may be on to something – November’s “30 Days of Thankfulness” challenge is a good reminder that an attitude of gratefulness can change the way we perceive our lives. But did you know that gratitude can also help improve heart health?
In the 1950s, cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman found that Type A behaviors (like hostility, urgency, and competitiveness) double the risk of coronary heart disease. Researchers at the University of California San Diego recently set out to determine whether the opposite attitude could have the opposite effect. Their initial study found that “those patients who generally have more grateful dispositions—also known as ‘trait’ gratitude—sleep better, are less depressed, have less fatigue, have more self-confidence to take care of themselves, and have less systemic inflammation.”
Based on these initial findings, the UCSD researchers then conducted a pilot study to measure the impact of keeping a “gratitude journal” among patients with heart failure. For two months, participants wrote down two or three things each day that they were grateful for, in addition to receiving their usual care. At the end of the study, participants showed both reduced markers of inflammation and increased heart rate variability – a strong indicator of heart health.
So whether your heart is in good shape or could use all the help it can get, we challenge you to practice gratitude. Write it down, tell a friend, practice it in prayer or meditation. The benefits go far beyond heart health. Try it for a week, and we think you’ll want to keep going!