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The Science of Gratitude

Posted by Sooz on Monday, November 18, 2013 | 4 Comments

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What if I told you that science has proven that being Grateful is good for you? Would it influence the way you approach your life. It should, because come to find out – Gratitude is a powerful force for Good in your body. It can help balance hormones, improve your natural ability to fight illness, and help create harmony between your brain and your heart.

The Institute of HeartMath (IHM) is a fascinating program whose goal it is to study emotions, stress, and heart coherence in order to help people live better lives. They look at issues other scientists ignore – specifically how our emotions impact our lives. Their work is fascinating and informative. We recommend that you take a look at their website and discover more about their work.

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches we take this opportunity to consider ALL the benefits of Gratitude. Certainly being thankful is important in life and a core element in the fight for Goodness, but isn’t it interesting that Gratitude is Good for your health? IHM has done some amazing studies that support this idea. They have shown that feelings of Gratitude increase Heart Coherence. This from the Institute:

According to research at IHM, true feelings of gratitude, appreciation and other positive emotions can synchronize brain and heart rhythms, creating a bodywide shift to a scientifically measurable state called coherence. In this optimal state, the body’s systems function more efficiently, generating a greater balance of emotions and increased mental clarity and brain function.

The level of coherence you experience during feelings of appreciation can be measured by sensitive instruments. Coherence also can be measured using heart-rate variability (HRV) –the naturally occurring beat-to-beat changes in heart rate, which can be seen in an electrocardiogram (ECG). Measuring coherence can accurately show heart, brain, and nervous-system interactions that are sensitive to changes in emotions.

While an individual is experiencing coherence, the heart rhythm appears as a smooth wavelike pattern on an HRV graph. Contrast coherence with incoherence, created by negative emotions such as frustration and anger, which can often disrupt the synchronization of the body’s systems and create jagged or chaotic patterns on a graph.

Heart Math graph

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Advanced research at the Institute of HeartMath and elsewhere has provided evidence that gratitude is not simply a nice sentiment or feeling. Sustained feelings of gratitude have real benefits.

  • Biochemical changes – Favorable changes in the body’s biochemistry include improved hormonal balance and an increase in production of DHEA, the ”anti-aging hormone.”
  • Increased positivity – Favorable changes in the body’s Daily gratitude exercises can bring about a greater level of positive feelings, according to researchers from the University of Miami and the University of California, Davis who studied this process in 157 individuals over 13  days.
  • Boost to the immune system – The IgA antibody, which serves as the first line of defense against pathogens, increases in the body.
  • Emotional “compound interest” – The accumulated effect of sustained appreciation and gratitude is that these feelings, and coherence, are easier to recreate with continued practice. This is because experiencing an emotion      reinforces the neural pathways of that particular emotion as it excites the brain, heart and nervous system.

 

The Goodness of Gratitude can and should be practiced regularly to increase your heart coherence and thus the positive effects of a grateful heart. Here is a way you can practice Gratitude as recommended by IHM.

 

Appreciation Exercise

  • Instructions: Take a few short appreciation breaks during the day. During each break take one or two minutes to breathe deeply through the area of the heart. While doing so, try to hold a sincere feeling of appreciation in your heart area. This can be appreciation for a family member, friend who helped you with something or even a wonderful vacation,  etc.
  • Why it works: The exercise of activating a positive feeling like appreciation literally shifts our physiology, helping to balance our heart rhythms and nervous system, and creates more coherence between the heart, brain and rest of the body.

Take some time this month to practice Gratitude as we approach Thanksgiving. Making it a habit will improve your health and give your heart more of what it needs to stay soft and open in this tough world. Besides, it’s GOOD for you!


A "Good" Idea:
Did you know that Gratitude is good for your health? Learn more...

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4 Responses

  1. Emily says:

    Love! And love the little “live gratitude” badge up there. The messages and overall feeling of Save Goodness fill me to the brim every time I’m here. Yes to that.

  2. Bill Kreul says:

    You have my attention–I will do it

  3. Bill Kreul says:

    you have my attention– I will do it

  4. Traci Bailey says:

    Great post as usual! Another good habit to get into..

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