Gratitude Strengthens the Heart

When it comes to expressing thankfulness for wonderful people and good fortune in your life, are you speaking from the heart? If so, you are taking an important step in supporting your cardiac health.

In a 2015 study referenced by the American Psychological Association and published by the journal Spirituality in Clinical Practice, researchers tested the effects of gratitude on heart health. The study looked at 186 men and women with asymptomatic (stage B) heart failure – a pivotal stage at which patients either begin recovery or experience further decline. Researchers found that patients who reported feelings of gratitude experienced better mood, sleep quality, and self-confidence, as well as lower rates of inflammation.

To further evaluate this link between gratitude and improved health, the researchers asked a portion of the study participants to keep gratitude journals, in which they wrote down three things they were thankful for every day for eight weeks. When compared against the other participants, those who kept journals displayed further decreases in inflammation, as well as reduced cardiac risk.

Ready to start your own gratitude journal? Here are five tips to try:

  • Choose a format that’s appealing and convenient for you. Whether you find solace in a plain black notebook, a scrapbook decorated with photographs, or a digital document, the effectiveness is the same. Always on the go? The digital notepad in your phone is a convenient journal option!
  • Start small. Gratitude doesn’t have to focus on big general topics, like your family or home. Expressing thanks for smaller moments – seeing a beautiful bird or enjoying a tasty meal – is also effective and helps you cultivate a more detailed feeling of appreciation.
  • Be specific. When you’re tempted to write that you are thankful for a partner or friend, consider why: Do her terrible jokes make you laugh? Did he stay after a party to help clean up? Does she always remember your favorite flowers? Focusing on specific attributes or situations can give you a greater sense of satisfaction.
  • Don’t shy away from tough topics. Finding something to be grateful for in difficult situations can help shorten your healing process and help you find peace. For example, if you lose all your photographs from a fabulous vacation, take time to treasure and express gratitude for your memories, rather than focusing on the loss.
  • Write every day, or almost. To really have an effect on your life, consistency is key. Make it part of your daily routine to chronicle your gratitude. First thing in the morning, right before bed, or during your commute are all great options.

Remember: February is Heart Health Month – an important time to consider how you can reduce the risk of heart disease. By working with your doctor to set goals for a heart-healthy lifestyle, you are practicing vital self-care during this month of love and appreciation. For more healthy living tips, visit heart.org.


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