Can cultivating a positive emotion such as gratitude contribute to better health?
It may be different from the usual prescription of diet, exercise, supplements or medicine, but there is scientific evidence that supports creating a positive state of mental health improves physical functioning and reduces pain.
“Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has—as opposed to a consumer-oriented emphasis on what one wants or needs. Gratitude is getting a great deal of attention as a facet of positive psychology: Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, grateful thinking—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy.” -Psychology Today
I’ve decided to do my own well being experiment by posting a photo each day for 1 year that represents any spontaneous feelings of gratitude that grab my attention. It’s only been a few weeks of photos so far and I can already feel a shift in my outlook. I don’t have to look too hard most days to see these moments, but I think it is in stopping and making a point to document and dwell on the feeling for a few breaths, the savoring and honoring it that triggers a deep response. I can feel myself relax and lean into the moment, becoming more aware of the physical sensations that arise. These mini meditations can add up quickly in the hustle of life. They trigger a relaxation response that softens the mind and the body to the possibility of kindness in places I may never plan to look. It may mean simply looking on the bright side or optimism, but I think making it a practice will be powerfully inspiring.
Giving thanks is an act of kindness. Sharing it acknowledges my interconnection with others and the wold. It sustains my belief in the good within myself and the world. This is essential for my emotional health. The emotional and physical health link is experimental, but I know the simple thing is this: It makes me feel good. When I feel good, I do good.