Public News Service
RICHMOND, Va. – What are you grateful for this holiday season?
The answer could be good for your health.
An array of studies shows expressing gratitude can reduce levels of stress and feelings of loneliness, which can in turn improve physical health by leading to more sleep and energy or even reducing blood pressure.
Dr. Susanna Block, a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente, says focusing on gratitude during what can be a stressful time of year is a great idea.
She says a study of people who discussed stressful experiences compared with those who spoke about what they were grateful for yielded these positive results.
“Those who focused on gratitude really showed decreased anxiety and a more positive mindset,” Block relates. “It’s interesting that health and gratitude really go hand in hand.
“I think if you feel more grateful and more positive, you sleep better. You have better relationships. It’s an important health tool.”
Block suggests discussing gratitude with children. She says getting them involved in an activity of generosity, such as cooking for a sick friend or volunteering, helps them appreciate this idea.
Dr. Mary Jane Lambert, a Kaiser Permanente physician who specializes in geriatrics, notes the holidays can be especially hard for people who have lost a loved one. But she says it can be tough for everyone because expectations are high that families will feel connected and celebrate their time together.
Yet these gatherings also can be stressful, and Lambert says one expression of gratitude that people can incorporate is a simple daily reminder about the positives in one’s life.
“It may be a family member who visits, a phone call, a personal connection,” she explains. “Even though someone has tended to dwell on the negative, there are ways to change that.”
Block says making gratitude more central to a person’s life doesn’t have to end with the holidays. She says families can discuss what they’re grateful for over dinner.
“But sometimes it might be just bringing it up while you’re in the car driving your kids around, or just at any other time when you have a moment to say, ‘How was your day?’ and ‘What were you grateful for?'” she states.