• Melissa Stewart

Stay Thankful. Stay Healthy.

You may have heard the word on the street. All the cool kids are doing it. It's kind of a "thing" nowadays. Keeping a gratitude journal. Have you heard of this new trend yet? It's all the rage.


People all over this world have now adopted this practice. Every day, they sit down at some point, and write something they are thankful for. Of course anyone would admit that this is a beautiful thing to do and we all should be thinking more on what we are grateful for, rather than complaining. But do all of these grateful journalists realize that they are actually changing the molecular structure of their brain, keeping the gray matter fuctioning, and making themselves HEALTHIER and HAPPIER?


Well this is what the studies are now showing. They are now discovering that when you feel happiness, the central nervous system is affected. You are more peaceful, less reactive and less resistant.


They have conducted studies that show that people who count their blessings tend to be far happier and experience less depression. That's powerful! We are now learning that gratitude can also be very beneficial for people with mental illness.


There are findings that suggest that practicing gratitude may help to train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and that this could contribute to improved mental health over time. Because as we now know, the brain can CHANGE. This is called neuroplasticity. This means that the brain is directly affected by the types of thoughts you allow to hang out in your mind. This also means that you can re-train your thought patterns and help to change the way your brain functions. I recently heard this referred to as "mental hygiene". Just like how we brush our teeth everyday, and work hard to stay clean, we should be putting effort in everyday to keep our mental health pristine. This isn't easy or natural. It takes deliberate effort on our part.


Having regular thoughts of gratitude can even keep your heart healthier! They have actually done studies on this. They took patients who had heart failure and they divided them into two different groups. One group received standard care, and the other group received that same standard care PLUS they did gratitude journaling.


The results were remarkable. The patients who did gratitude journaling saw a decrease in inflammatory markers (CRP, TNF-a, IL-6) and an increase in heart rate variability, which corresponds to a decrease in the stress response. (Link to study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4927423/ )


In other words, just writing down what they were thankful for everyday, reduced inflammation and relieved stress in measurable ways. Amazing!


I have a daily morning routine which includes writing down one thing that I'm thankful for. I make this one thing VERY SPECIFIC. Like, I'm not writing down stuff such as "I'm thankful for the air I breathe" or "I'm thankful for family" or "I'm thankful for kittens." I get specific and I actually write down something that happened from the day before. Such as "I'm thankful for my busy 11 hour day which means I'll have more money for Christmas" or "I'm thankful for the sweet old lady at church named Ruby who serves monthly at the Good Samaritan".


This will make you more aware throughout the day of the GOOD things that are going on around you. So many times we only remember everything that went wrong. Why is it that those things seem so much louder than the positive points of our day? We have to train our brain to look for the good stuff and think on those things MORE than the things that didn't go well that day. Believe it or not, this will actually promote better health and overall happiness in your life.


Not only do I write this out each day, I also take opportunity to share these good things with others. This will help to reaffirm these things in our mind and make them more prevalent. I actually write specific notes of thanks to my church via their website, thanking staff for different ministries or events that I've enjoyed or been blessed by. It feels good to thank other people for certain things they have done which have positively impacted me or my family.


Bottom line: Being thankful feels better than complaining. It keeps your mind healthy which in return will keep your body healthy. It all goes hand in and hand. I'd rather go through life with a positive, optimistic outlook than to be a big ole grouch. I challenge you to look for the good in each and every day. Write it down. Share it with others. Stay thankful.


(Great article on this: https://www.collective-evolution.com/2019/02/14/scientists-show-how-gratitude-literally-alters-the-human-heart-molecular-structure-of-the-brain/?fbclid=IwAR3HtrFXAVaBswmmK5p4DbIn_bSfJg8-emxCgyLy01OQoDmZHo4f9vUOr_k )




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