Originally published on chopra.com
The relation between the mind and the body is fast ageing. When scientists were called upon to show that our emotions influenced our bodies, it progressed from the early stage. The next stage was how toxic psychological habits would affect us. Now a new phase has begun, in which the focal point is “positive psychology.” A perfect example of good psychology is appreciation.
In one study carried out in 2003, a group of participants maintained a personal journal for ten weeks, evaluating mood, physical condition and other variables to make them happy. They were asked either to explain five things that they were thankful for (the condition of gratitude) last week or to describe five daily problems (the condition of trouble) for which they had been unhappy.
Those with the state of appreciation showed less health problems than the control participants and even spent more time exercising. Similar studies have shown that feelings improve when someone with a chronic condition focuses instead of feeling negative on “attitude of appreciation.” Gratitude also leads to lower stress hormone levels.
Already we know that appreciation is good for you, it adds love and empathy to the list of things that generate a biochemical body change. Because gratitude is a mental practice, it demonstrates how anything completely unphysical can change the brain’s physical activity. The general lesson is that the brain responds to positive stimuli and transmits signals to all the cells in the body that improve life.
How can you boost your own life’s strength of gratitude?
The 3 stages of gratitude
There are three gratitude stages, each more powerful than the previous stage. The following are:
- Thank you for the good things in your life.
- Express your gratitude to those who changed your life
- New actions by engaging with those who have supported you
We all experienced the first stage— we were thankful for something positive, often to escape a danger such as a diagnosis of disease which turns out to be a false alarm. You need to make the mentality of appreciation more constant in order to make this feeling more than just a moment past. Just as in the gratitude report, holding a brief journal is all you need to cause the health benefits of gratitude— a good start for everybody.
Step 2 is more challenging. It is more complicated. It’s difficult to reach another person, particularly as many people think you’re weak by opening up and showing appreciation. Staying inside your shell is safer. But if you thank anyone else, emotional connections exist, and emotional connections are one of the main features of genuine happiness. Some of the earliest studies of your mind have shown the decline in your health and the increased mortality risk of loneliness and isolation, the very opposite from connecting to others. Now is the time to turn our focus back to emphasize the good side of the equation and highlight emotional bonding on the self-care list.
Step 3 is the best because it affects the future of men. If your thankfulness leads to a greater sense of compassion, less judgement and greater appreciation of life itself, then you set the stage for years of success. By taking gratitude as your norm, you reassure your brain that your positive feedback will far outweigh your adverse feedback. The findings are paired with mixed signals. In keeping with your thankfulness you build a blueprint that contributes to brain changes with a number of advantages over time.
Clearly, the path of thankfulness is one of the most normal paths to wholeness, because on all levels, almost immediately, body, mind and spirit are affected.