Yep, that’s right. Gratitude is medicine. You’ve seen the, “Exercise is Medicine” campaign offered up at www.exerciseismedicine.org, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Medical Association and supported by many health and fitness related organizations notably among them, the American Council on Exercise, www.acefitness.org.
The goal of this initiative has been to make physical activity and exercise a routine part of disease prevention and medical treatment. In the words of the famous commercials, “But wait, there’s more…” What more can assure better living, healthier, fit and happier lives? No pill, no strict diet regimen are needed. It’s simply gratitude. At least that’s true if you believe what people have been writing since Biblical times, writing about more recently in the popular literature and researching at universities for the past several decades through the lens of positive psychology.
This dose of medicine requires a daily moment or two of your time. Research at the University of Pennsylvania, University of California at Davis, and the Universities of Michigan, Utah, Illinois and Kentucky, in particular, have demonstrated that people who are deeply thankful, count their blessings, notice the simple joys of daily life, and acknowledge everything they have in positive ways, engage in healthier behaviors and generally take better care of themselves. This extends to exercising more regularly, eating more wisely, and visiting their physicians for regular physical examinations as needed.
In his 2007 book, “Thanks: How the Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier,” Robert Emmons reported on his well-known study that found that people who keep a daily journal listing five things they feel grateful for each day, are 25% happier than those who don’t. He also described this group as feeling “…more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, attentive, energetic, excited, determined, and strong than those…” who focused on the hassles of daily life. The gratitude group also reported fewer physical symptoms and exercised more, which of course are related. The benefits of focusing, daily, on gratitude extend to the emotional, mental and physical areas of life.
Writing down your grateful thoughts is also a terrific sleeping pill. In his research, Emmons found that those who do, “get more hours of sleep each night, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more refreshed upon awakening.” Sure beats a pill!
Gratitude beats back stress, which may be related to 90% of all doctor visits. Looking through the mental lens of what can go right, being appreciative of what you have instead of being angry for what you don’t have, leads to seeing life as full and satisfactory. It may well be the link to helping people cope with daily events, effectively avoiding the kind of thinking that creates stress—“Life should be different, and I should have it the way I want/demand it to be. It’s not and therefore that’s awful. Since life is awful, I can’t stand it!”
There you have it. One daily dose of spending several minutes jotting down three to five things for which you are grateful, what went right, developing the sense of abundance, appreciating others and the simple pleasures of life while avoiding a sense of entitlement and envy, goes a long way to adding health, happiness and wellness to your life.
Can you think? Be grateful for the good you can contemplate. Can you see? Be grateful for the beauty that you can see. Can you hear? Be grateful for the soothing sounds of life that you can hear. Get it?
Finally, if you forget, remember this GPS system that will take you to the best places of life: Gratitude, positivity and sensitivity.
Good – what’s good about your daily life regardless of what you have or not?
Recognize – what can go right?
Appreciative – are you appreciative of what you have…and don’t have?
Thankful – who have you sincerely thanked today?
Emotional – can you express emotion in a positive manner?
Fulfilled – you are either fulfilled or on the way to being fulfilled…never unfulfilled
Understanding – do you have the lens to understand that whatever happens always happens for the good?
Liked – do you look for what you can like in every person and situation you come across in life?