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November 2011 – Recognizing the Health Benefits of Gratitude
FACT:  Practicing gratitude can enhance happiness levels by approximately 25%. Researchers Emmons and McCullough assigned participants to weekly journal a) five things they were grateful for, b) five hassles that displeased them, or c) five random events.  At the end of 10 weeks, those in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the future than participants in the other groups—a full 25% happier.  

HOPE:  Do you struggle with depression? Several studies have shown that the more grateful a person is, the less depressed they are.  You can improve your happiness quotient by keeping a simple gratitude journal, recording in writing what you are grateful for from the previous week.  Ask yourself, what have I received?  What have I given? What can I learn from my difficulties?

FACT:  Gratitude can help you live longer. In the famous “Nun Study,” researcher David Snowdon, from the Department of Neurology at the University of Kentucky Medical School, found that the more positive emotions (contentment, gratitude/thankfulness, happiness, hope and love) expressed in the life stories of nuns, the more likely they were to still be alive six decades later. 
HOPE:  While we can’t change our past, or maybe even our current situation, we can change the way we interpret these experiences.  Rewrite your life story with a theme of gratitude, giving “thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).  Gratitude, with practice, can become not only a healthy habit to promote longevity, but a way of viewing the world.  

FACT:   A grateful disposition enhances your marriage.  Researcher John Gottman, from the University of Washington, has found that unless a couple is able to maintain a 5:1 or greater ratio of positive (smiles, compliments, laughter) to negative encounters (complaints, put-downs, expression of anger), it is likely the marriage will end.
HOPE:  Does your marriage need a booster shot?  Have a goal of counting at least five blessings for every one complaint. And don’t forget to express that gratitude to your spouse!  Another research study found that each unit of improvement in expressed appreciation decreased by half the odds of the couple breaking up in six months. 

FACT:  Grateful people take better care of themselves.  Researchers Emmons and McCullough found that study participants who kept a weekly gratitude journal exercised 1.5 hours more than the group who recorded daily hassles.  In another study with adults having congenital and adult-onset neuromuscular disorders, participants who jotted down their blessings nightly reported more hours of sleep each night, spending less time awake before falling asleep, and feeling more refreshed upon awakening.
HOPE:  Each of us has a list of health habits that could use improvement—hours of sleep, regular exercise, eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, etc.  This week, enhance your lifestyle change efforts by spending a few quiet moments each day counting your blessings.  After all, positive behaviors are driven by a positive attitude.

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