“Our thoughts change our biochemistry, which changes the behavior of our cells,” stated Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., known as the Godfather of Epigenetics, in a lecture I attended in 2019. WOW, that’s a lot of Epigenetic power! Gratitude is a transformative emotion that extends its influence far beyond making us feel good emotionally. Recent research reveals that gratitude has significant physical and mental health benefits, impacting our well-being at the genetic level. In this blog post, we’ll explore the epigenetic impact of gratitude on our physical and mental health.
The connection between emotions and physical health is well-established, and gratitude is no exception. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can have a positive impact on various physiological processes, including the immune system, cardiovascular health, and pain perception. But what’s really fascinating is how gratitude can influence gene expression.
One study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that individuals who engaged in gratitude exercises had lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is a significant factor in the development of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. By practicing gratitude, we can potentially reduce inflammation by modulating gene expression, promoting better overall physical health.
Other cardiovascular factors impacted by gratitude include improved High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL) or healthy cholesterol and a decrease in Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL), as well as reductions in blood pressure. Ah, that’s all from having an attitude of gratitude!
Additionally, if we are being grateful, we cannot dwell in worry and anxiety at the same time. Therefore, our stress hormone cortisol can decrease. This, in turn, has a profound impact on our hormone balance, which can help diminish the risk of estrogen dominance, known to have far-reaching effects on us physically, mentally, and emotionally.
A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research highlighted that gratitude practices were associated with significant improvements in heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is an indicator of our balance between the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), which I call our “Survival Nervous System,” and our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS), or “Pretty Safe Nervous System.” When our PSNS activity rises, then our HRV score will too. The Higher, the better, unless you do indeed have a saber tooth tiger running after you.
Now, how many of you would like to improve your sleep? Do you know that gratitude has been shown to improve the quality of your sleep, too?
Practical Tips for Cultivating Gratitude
Now that we’ve explored the epigenetic impact of gratitude across various aspects of our lives let’s delve into practical ways to cultivate gratitude and harness its transformative power:
What’s Awesome About This?: I learned this helpful statement in my Creation Coach certification program of 2021. Whenever something happens that I’m not thrilled about, I’ll ask myself, “What’s awesome about this?” Now, to be clear, this thought pattern, like a muscle, has gotten bigger over time. In the past, it might take several minutes or an hour to ask myself that question, but now I can get there in a matter of seconds.
And, here’s where it counts – I had completed this blog post and was ready to send it to my virtual assistant when I lost the whole thing. Deleted, gone, not to be rescued. That has not happened for years!! My first thought was, “Oh NO.” But within 2 minutes, I went to “What’s awesome about this?” That quick shift was able to calm down my stress hormones and get me thinking about what might be the hidden gem here. What might be the silver lining here? Having to start over leads to some new inspiration.
Gratitude Journaling: I had thought of keeping a gratitude journal for years. Yet it wasn’t until I took my Creation Coach certification course that I finally put it into practice. For me, I had to find a simpler way to journal. Once I found a fabulous app (the Day One App) that synchs with all of my devices, I was able to be consistent. I set a goal to write, or in my case, dictate, three bullet points a day just before I went to sleep. I knew that with the power of neuroplasticity, I could create a new neural pathway for gratitude. Over time, the three bullet points turned into seven bullet points. As time went on, I had 12 paragraphs, and sometimes I would start dictating early in the am.
The payoff of this new habit really blessed me when I was going through my divorce. By counting my blessings all day and taking a few seconds to dictate them, I was able to stay vibrating in a higher realm of gratitude vs. anger and resentment during the most intense challenge of my life! Yes, I felt tremendous grief during the journey, but I know that I had a much more powerful outlook on my future because of the daily focus on gratitude!
Mindfulness and Meditation: Here again was another habit I thought I would start “someday.” Well, the pandemic quarantine was my perfect time to start. As I began to meditate daily, I slowed my thoughts. I started noticing things! Mindfulness practices can help you become more aware of the present moment and the blessings in your life. I did notice more of the joy and beauty around me. When I start my day in meditation and thanking God before we Co-create my day together, I’m automatically in a state of gratitude. This, of course, then sets me up to notice the joy and abundance all day to journal about at night.
Can you see how these three amazing habits work together to increase gratitude?
Gratitude goes beyond mere thankfulness. It has a tangible impact on our physical and mental health. By practicing gratitude regularly, we can potentially reduce inflammation, improve cognitive function, and experience an overall sense of well-being. The epigenetic effects of gratitude provide us with a scientific basis for embracing this positive emotion as a powerful tool for improving our lives.