Saying thanks to a friend or family member is sure to make their day. But this act of gratitude has benefits for you, too—including a boost in your heart health.
Research from the University of California in San Diego is part of the evidence. Scientists there studied a group of 185 people with a condition called asymptomatic heart failure.
People with this condition have had unhealthy changes to their heart that could lead to serious heart failure. But they haven’t had symptoms like being out of breath or feeling tired yet.
The researchers found that the patients in the group who were the most grateful slept better, were less depressed, had less fatigue, and were more self-confident. They also had less chronic inflammation, which damages the inner lining of blood vessel walls. That makes heart disease more likely.
Specifically, they had lower levels of a substance called CRP. This is an important indicator of harmful inflammation in the body.
The California researchers then did a second study. They wondered if cultivating a grateful heart might prevent heart damage from progressing. So they tested health measures in a group of 70 patients with asymptomatic heart failure. Then they asked them to keep a gratitude journal and write down 2 or 3 things they were grateful for everyday for 8 weeks.
At the end of the study, patients who had kept the journals had lower inflammation levels in their bodies than patients who didn’t keep a journal. They also had an increase in heart rate variability, another measure of good heart health.
More study is needed to see how big a difference that simple act could make. But it can’t hurt to give it a try!
A gratitude journal is just one way to increase your ability to see and appreciate the positive parts of life. Here are some other ways to develop greater gratitude:
- Take every chance to say “thank you” to people you are grateful for, from your spouse to the server behind the counter who remembers your favorite coffee drink. Make sure your words are heartfelt.
- Out of the blue, write a thank-you note to someone you are grateful for and notice the reaction. It can literally warm their heart and yours.
- If it is part of your spiritual practice, make it a point to pray.
- As you sit down for dinner each night, go around the table and have each person say what made them thankful that day. Or ask yourself each night as you turn in for bed, “What am I grateful for?”
It’s not so easy to feel grateful during challenging times like the one we are in now. But giving thanks could be a very worthwhile practice for your body, mind, and heart!