The evidence is in your spirit. In your brain. In your very DNA.
Gratitude will change your life.
And what better time to talk about it than this festive month? Thanksgiving is a holiday, yes – one of warmth and family and the best of food (pumpkin pie, anyone?!). But it is also an adjective. The act of giving thanks. And believe it or not, giving thanks is an act of alchemy.
Wait a minute. How’d we jump from pie to alchemy? Well, let’s back up. What exactly is alchemy?
Alchemy is synonymous with transformation. An alchemist takes the normal, the negative, the heavy, the dark…. and transforms it to gold. To its best version, to its greatest potential and beyond. And alchemy is synonymous with something else too: Gratitude.
The practice of conscious appreciation is the elixir that changed my life. Saved my life, in fact. After my accident, my suffering far outweighed my blessings. Or so it was until started to consciously count them. If you read my book, you know how much I wrote in my journal. I made lists of all I could be thankful for. And when I was too weak to hold a pen, I counted those blessings behind closed eyes. That’s how I got through. That’s what lit the darkness with an ember – a flicker – a fire of hope.
And though the strengthening of my spirit was proof enough of the transformative power of gratitude, I came across mounting scientific evidence from UC Davis, Harvard Health, University of Miami and more that all prove the same thing: gratitude makes you healthier, stronger, and happier. Here are five shocking facts from science:
- Counteracts Depression
You know I can attest to this. So can research with Vietnam Vets which concluded that vets who had higher levels of appreciation had lower levels of PTSD.
- Improves Patience
Studies from Northwestern University proved that people who appreciated little every-day things could make more sensible decisions with the ability to hold out for benefits in the long run, rather than their less grateful counterparts who had lower levels of patience and sought immediate gratification.
- Raises Self-Esteem
It is so easy to feel resentment toward those who have it ‘better off’ than us. Gratitude reduces social comparison, helping us appreciate other people’s accomplishments. This, in turn, raises the value we put on our own accomplishments and esteem. Gratitude focuses the mind on what we have, not what we lack. In another study performed on a group of professional athletes, it was found that gratitude directly increased the athlete’s self-esteem and thus their ability for optimal performance.
- Improves Sleep
Over 400 people with clinically impaired sleep were tested in a study. Those who practiced gratitude reported improvement in duration and quality of sleep, with more ease staying awake during the day. I say if you’re looking for more z’s, count blessings, not sheep. Then you’ll wake rested to see just how brightly the sun really does shine.
- Changes your DNA
That’s right, your very DNA reacts to your thoughts. In multiple studies, researchers monitored strands of DNA. When the test subjects had feelings of frustration, stress, and fear, the DNA strands responded by visibly contracting and switching off multiple genetic codes. Conversely, when the same test subjects felt love and appreciation, the DNA physically relaxed and lengthened. That means our thoughts are more connected to our health than we ever imagined. Simply by being grateful, we can help prevent viruses and diseases; we can help our bodies heal whatever they are fighting.
By focusing on the good in your life – no matter how shadowed by adversity – you will attract more goodness. If you’re ready to become the alchemist of your own life, you can download and follow my free gratitude journal here. It’s the practice that saved my life and I’m sharing it with you because I know how truly effective it is. Gratitude turns denial into acceptance, makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates hope for tomorrow.
It’s no wonder that the Latin root of gratitude, gratia, translates to grace.