Be Grateful and Grow Younger

By Robin Nielsen Healthy Lifestyle No Comments on Be Grateful and Grow Younger

This is the time of year when things could get a little crazy. Am I right? You’re laughing…

I notice that my husband isn’t quite as affectionate these past few days. When I ask what’s up he says his brain is busy thinking about gifts for people. Of course, that’s good and bad news…the bad news is that my oxytocin levels – the amazing hormone and brain chemical that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy, and reduces stress – is dwindling by the minute.

Are you feeling the stress of the holidays? Did you forget to say “No” and now you’re committed every night until Christmas?

Never fear, gratitude is here!

Practicing gratitude on a daily basis has far-reaching effects when it comes to being happy and feeling a sense of balance. And, being happy will help us to grow young! Whew – just in time…

According to Seth Borenstein, in an article he wrote, entitled “Giving Thanks Can Change Your Pyschological Outlook,” “It makes you happier and can change your attitude about life, like an emotional reset button.”

“Oprah was right,” said University of Miami psychology professor Michael McCullough, who has studied people who are asked to be regularly thankful. “When you are stopping and counting your blessings, you are sort of hijacking your emotional system.”

And he means hijacking it from out of a funk into a good place. A very good place. Research by McCullough and others finds that giving thanks is a potent emotion that feeds on itself, almost the equivalent of being victorious. It could be called a vicious circle, but it’s anything but vicious.

He said psychologists used to underestimate the strength of simple gratitude: “It does make people happier … It’s that incredible feeling.”

“If you want your brain to work better, be grateful for the good things in life,” says Dr. Daniel Amen, brain imaging expert. Growing younger is all about having a healthy brain.

Do you need a quick feel-good during these busy times? Get out your journal before bed and write down three things you are grateful for.

Gratitude journals or diaries, in which people list weekly or nightly what they are thankful for, are becoming regular therapy tools.

And in those journals, it is important to focus more on the people you are grateful for, said Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis. Concentrate on what life would be without the good things — especially people such as spouses — in your life and how you are grateful they are there, he said.

Grateful people “feel more alert, alive, interested, enthusiastic. They also feel more connected to others,” said Emmons, who has written two books on the science of gratitude and often studies the effects of those gratitude diaries.

“Gratitude also serves as a stress buffer,” Emmons said in an e-mail interview. “Grateful people are less likely to experience envy, anger, resentment, regret and other unpleasant states that produce stress.”

If you are less stressed, your mind and body will feel fabulous. That’s all we really care about, huh? I’m so grateful for you. Wishing you the happiest of holidays!

©Robin Nielsen, NC

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