Gratitude – the Cheapest Medicine Around

by DavalosMcCormack on October 26, 2009

Yesterday I wrote about how having a cold made me grateful for my normal good health.  That got me thinking more about gratitude and just how important it is in our everyday lives.

First, and most obviously, a sense of gratitude reminds us of the good things in our life; the people we love and who love us; having enough to eat; having a roof over our head; being healthy. These are simple things that most of us have most of the time but often take for granted.

Even if we don’t have all the things we want or would like – if we are overweight for example or have a bad back – we need to remember that we could be so much worse off. That’s not always a great comfort but it does help us put things in perspective.

Secondly, there’s good evidence that gratitude can not only make you feel better about yourself and the world around you, it can make you feel better period.

Jeffrey Froh, Assistant Psychology professor at Hofstra University, did a study in which he measured the physical benefits of being grateful. He found that people who are grateful and who “counted their blessings” were less likely to report headaches, stomach aches, or pain in the body.

Other studies show that, compared to people who don’t have a feeling of gratitude, people who describe themselves as feeling grateful to others have more energy and enthusiasm, are more optimistic, less prone to stress and less likely to suffer from clinical depression.

This does not mean that you walk around thanking everyone for everything. You can be grateful for what you have and still be aware that the world is filled with hate and pain and suffering. The key is not letting that information obscure how fortunate you are or how much goodness there is in the world.

Nor is a sense of gratitude only for those who have a blessed life with a great job, lots of money, friends etc. Many people of limited or even no means can feel grateful for many aspects of their life. It means being aware of your disappointments but thankful for the blessings you have, for the good that has happened to you or simply the chance to be alive.

My mate Dr. Bill Stewart, author of “Deep Medicine” (full disclosure here: Bill and I work at the same hospital but I don’t get any financial benefit from mentioning him here – otherwise I’d be writing about him all the time!) says gratitude is one of the cheapest, most effective medicines you can have.

Bill, who knows something about the power of the mind to heal, says a sense of gratitude can help boost the immune system and help you sleep better.

You don’t need spandex, any equipment or gym membership to exercise it.

And it has no known side effects other than to make the people around you wonder how they can get whatever it is you have.

So tell them what you are doing. They’ll be grateful that you did.

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