Tis the season to be stressed!  Er-ummm…I mean, tis the season to give thanks!

Counting our blessings and being thankful for what we have is a wonderful and important exercise, and it’s great that this time of year inspires us to take the time do do it!  But, did you know that consistent gratitude can actually help you live longer?

It’s true, research continues to prove that thankful people live longer. People who cultivate and consistently live a thankful lifestyle, not just as a temporary state of mind, can focus more on the positives of their life, which impacts their ability to be grateful. And, the fruit of being grateful is a greater sense of well-being.  One of the most important findings about thankfulness, is how it impacts the way we deal with stress.

Current statistics show that stress is the cause for nearly 90% of all doctor visits. It makes sense if you consider that stress is the cause of many ailments, such as sleep issues, high blood pressure, heart disease and even cancer. Many of the aches and pains that plague us, and interrupt our day, can be attributed to stress.  The dangerous effects of stress can make us sick and shorten our lives.

The American Psychological Association’s latest stress survey indicates that 63 percent of people experience psychological symptoms of stress.  Other studies confirm the link between stress and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Sustained or chronic stress, leads to elevated hormones, such as cortisol, the “stress hormone,” and reduced serotonin, and other neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, which has been linked to depression.”  Although stress has been identified as a major cause of many physical and psychological ailments, there is a remedy that doesn’t cost one cent.  Gratitude.

Study after study continues to prove the benefits of gratitude as the healing balm our stressed-out culture needs.  Leading gratitude researcher, Robert Emmons Ph.D., says that stress hormones, like cortisol, are 23 percent lower in grateful people.  In addition, he says embracing a thankful lifestyle can reduce the effects of aging on the brain!  Cultivating and maintaining an attitude of gratitude, as a way of life, is the number one way to manage the stress in our lives.

Giacomo Bono, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at California State University, and author of “Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character”, says “Gratitude is a person’s ability to recognize and acknowledge the positive events in their lives as well as the people and places involved.” Thankfulness then, is being in the habit of looking for what’s going well in our lives, rather than focusing on our troubles.

When you make the decision to look for what is going well, your thinking improves, your outlook improves, and so does your resilience to stress.  Research continues to prove that people who see gratitude as a permanent state of mind, and not just fleeting positive emotions, can diffuse stress and enjoy better mental and physical health.

Clearly, maintaining an attitude of thankfulness is vital to our health. So what happens if you aren’t naturally inclined to thankfulness?

Watch for my next post, “How to Cultivate Gratitude” coming soon!