It’s not hard to find articles about the benefits of thankfulness. One simple online search request and dozens of articles pop up (I love online research!).
Here are some of the health benefits researchers have linked to a habit of thankfulness:
- Thankful people tend to take better care of themselves overall. Things like exercise, a healthy diet and good choices come easier.
- Stress—responsible for up to 90% of physical ailments that send us to the doctor—is eased by habitual thankfulness.
- Thankfulness is directly related to optimism, which has been found to boost your immune system.
- Thankfulness has been linked to better sleep, which in turn is necessary for good health.
- Thankful people are less likely to smoke, and abuse alcohol or drugs.
- Thankful people tend to have better cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? With out-of-control health care costs, it’s great to know we can do something about our long-term health by choosing to develop a habit of thankfulness.
How does it work?
Why does it make such a difference?
A few months ago my friend Brittany gave me a set of cd lectures by South African neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf. Dr. Leaf has spent the past 25 years studying the connection between our mind and our brain.
(She’s not as intimidating as she sounds—very engaging speaking style!)
Turns out how we use our mind—our thoughts and the choices we make—profoundly affects the actual physical structure of our brain at the cellular level.
It’s so cool!
Invest some time watching or reading her explanations of this. It’ll change the way you look at your mind, thoughts and mental choices. Here are some things she says:
- “Every thought that you think is actually a physical reality in your brain…your thoughts occupy mental real estate.”
- “What science has proven and scripture has already said is that your mind changes your brain…your mind changes your body…and your mind is instrumental in developing your spirit.”
- “You are designed with a powerful mind to think and to choose. As you are thinking and choosing, you influence the body and you influence the spirit.”
- “Whatever you are choosing with your mind will become a physical reality inside your body, and you are either building life or death in your body through the choices that you make.”
- “The brain takes on the physical structure of what the mind dictates.”
The neurons in our brain literally change and grow depending on whether our thoughts are life-giving or toxic. Dr. Leaf compares the results to either a flourishing, green tree or a dead tree. Literally.
A great place to start? Be thankful today. Be thankful tomorrow. Find a few things each day to be thankful for. Make it a habit. It’s good for you!
- “Boost Your Health with a Dose of Gratitude” WebMD.com
- “Why Gratitude isn’t Just for Thanksgiving” time.com
- “Thanksgiving Science: Why Gratitude is Good for You” livescience.com
- Dr. Caroline Leaf: “Controlling Your Toxic Thoughts”
(This article was first published in my e-newsletter Active Outdoor Journal. You can subscribe too, and receive monthly inspiration, activity and location ideas and more.)
Sharon is the founder and publisher of Active Outdoor Women. She loves getting outside in beautiful places to hike, paddle, camp, snowshoe, ski, ride—and encouraging others to come along! Besides maintaining AOW and her other website, Twin Cities Outdoors, Sharon writes and designs websites, newsletters, blogs, emails, books and other marketing tools for clients.