Gratitude heals

Thanksgiving has come and gone and the winter holidays are just around the corner.

During this time of year, people tend to put a special focus on gratitude, to be thankful for good food, good health, and good people, but I’d like to urge you to keep the spirit of gratitude going strong each and every day no matter what the season is.

Last week on my team call, we went around and had everyone share two to three things they are grateful for.

One person shared she was thankful for conventional medicine because it helped her get through a complicated delivery with a healthy baby.

Another shared gratitude for his parents and being able to spend time with them, consciously learning their stories and getting to know them on a deeper level.

One team member talked about how grateful she was for her new meditation practice because it helped her be a more mindful mother.

And still, another expressed her appreciation for being able to escape to nature for peace and solitude in the midst of a crazy world.

Despite the fact that we are scattered all over the country, this phone call was one small way of bringing us all closer together. It was a way for us to all feel a human connection over the amazing things in this world, from simple to complex, that help us find meaning.

I urge you to embrace your own gratitude practice, to feel the beneficial effects in many areas of your life. It’s been found to improve psychological health by reducing toxic emotions like envy and regret. When it comes to physical health, grateful people have been found to have fewer aches and pains and take better care of themselves in general.

Gratitude is also linked to better sleep, with both better sleep quality and duration being linked to a grateful attitude. This same outlook has been linked to higher levels of self-esteem and it can also help us make new friends: Thanking an acquaintance encourages them to pursue an ongoing relationship with you, as it sends the signal that there is potential for a high-quality relationship to be formed.

It’s clear there are multiple benefits to be had from incorporating a regular gratitude practice into your wellness routine. Writing down a few things every day, silently acknowledging them on your commute, or taking a moment at the dinner table to say something you are thankful for out loud—all of these acts open up your mind and body to feel their best.

So let the holidays be a time to practice gratitude and strengthen its role in your life, but be sure to keep it around even after the lights and celebrations are over to support your best health.

Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD

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