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Q: Can being grateful improve my overall health?

Posted January 08, 2014 in Advice Column, Greene County

A: As we celebrate the new year, this is a great time to count our many blessings. This will improve mood, but research shows that feelings associated with gratitude benefit your health, too. Alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy all increase with thoughts of gratitude. When you find one thing to be grateful for and focus on it for as little as 20 seconds, many physiologic changes take place. Levels of stress hormones decrease, creating beneficial changes, such as enhanced immunity. Coronary arteries relax, increasing blood supply to your heart. Heart rhythm becomes more harmonious, which positively affects other body organs. Breathing deepens, increasing oxygen levels of your tissues.

If all of this happens when you focus for just 20 seconds on something that brings you joy, imagine what would happen to your health if you were able to cultivate thoughts of appreciation on a consistent basis.

It takes practice to feel gratitude. Here’s a good way to start. Get a piece of paper and list your blessings. Pay special attention to those people who enhance your life on every level, then thank them. Thanking the people who bestow blessings on you will uplift them, and enrich your life in ways you never thought possible. Not only does it enhance your energy levels and reduce stress, but recognizing and appreciating life’s many blessings is one of the most powerful ways to enhance the immune system, balance hormones and promote health. This exercise can literally change your life.

Information provided by Jefferson Family Chiropractic, 216 N. Wilson Ave., 515-386-3747.

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