If you’ve been reading for a while you know I’m an avid proponent of gratitude.
I write thank you notes promptly and keep a record of at least two things to be thankful for each day. From the very, very large to the very, very small I keep gratitude as a part of my life. It’s a habit like making my bed or brushing my teeth and when I began this blog I learned something new – and startling.
I take gratitude for granted.
That’s the thing about a habit. It’s ingrained, it’s vital and you can’t live without it and as you implement this new practice you feel recharged and invigorated. YOu wonder why it took so long to get around to doing something that makes you feel so good. After a while you sort of slide on to auto pilot. The thrill dies down a bit and you miss the rush you got when it was all so new and you slip on the comfy old shoes and congratulated yourself for so successfully incorporating a new, worthwhile piece into the puzzle of your life.
So, as I began to plot what I would share about gratitude I realized you, Dear Readers, would all quickly bore of seeing my journal pages. I also wanted to offer practical information and little known, but, perhaps vital information about why one would (or should) take the time to be grateful. As is typical I learned I was not only teacher, but student, and stand amazed by what is at hand.
The most astounding fact, to me, is the one I share today. A daily gratitude practice can lower your blood pressure. By now I think we’ve all read how a gratitude practice will help us reduce stress and increases the chances of us following an exercise regimen. Both of these factors being an aid to lower blood pressure – but – there are some new studies indicating that the act (and art) of gratitude in and of itself will help lower blood pressure. The American Heart Association’s website offers one of the best summaries I’ve read on the topic under the heading Prevention and Treatment of Stress and Blood Pressure*. As the AMA points out a gratitude practice offers us an opportunity to change how we react in stressful situations. By increasing our focus on the positive aspects and interactions in our life, we are able to effectively reduce our overall stress load. That reduction in stress reduces the amount of time we spend in a ‘fight / flight’ mode which reduces rises in blood pressure caused by this response.
Granted, ‘fight / flight’ is a vital human reaction, but, not one we were ever intended to live in for extended periods of time. While science is still studying the direct correlation between stress to high blood pressure and heart disease, we all know we feel better – in body, mind and soul – when we are in a more relaxed state. Certainly none of us, save perhaps the lottery winners who live on the beach, can say they live a completely stress free existence. However in my humble opinion and personal experience I can say with certainty even the smallest stress reductions have paid large dividends in my health and well-being.
This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart (no pun intended) as both heart disease and high blood pressure are part of my family medical history. So, you can be sure there will be more posts on the science supporting the positive impact of a gratitude practice in our Thankful Thursday segment in the weeks to come.
* You can read the entire, multi-page article on the American Heart Association website, http://www.heart.org by selecting the links for conditions and then high blood pressure. I have linked directly to the article in the note above.
**Now let’s be clear (and make my attorney a happy camper) I am not suggesting you forego any prescribed blood pressure medicines or ignore your physician’s advice.