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Medical Disclaimer

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Friday, November 4, 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude

Here we are officially entering the time of year when most of us find ourselves immersed in activities for the holidays.  If your family is like ours, nearly every weekend is filled with some sort of activity between church and kids and school and other family obligations.  It can be a very stressful time of year.  It can also be a very fulfilling time of year.

I've noticed many of my friends and family celebrating an attitude of gratitude by posting 30 days of thanksgiving on their Facebook pages.  Each day they list something they are thankful for. I think this is an excellent idea. No matter whether you are religious or not, being thankful puts your mind on positive thoughts.  Psychologists tell us that focusing on the positive is healthy for our body and mind.  Keeping our thoughts toward the upside can help enhance not only our mental health, but physical health as well.

Studies have shown that people who have more positive attitudes on psychological tests have longer lives. People facing illnesses who have a positive outlook have better outcomes. People who are happy are less likely to get sick, even from the common cold.  There is a direct relationship between how you feel emotionally and how you feel physically.  Several studies have even shown that patients who have heart disease have lower death rates when they are happier emotionally. 

We don't know for sure why this is, but scientists theorize that positive thoughts raise levels of certain brain hormones such as serotonin and dopamine.  These neurotransmitters are involved in sleep, appetite, mood, motivation and concentration and many other body systems. Higher levels of dopamine, reduce other hormones produced throughout the body in times of stress and lower levels of these stress hormones means less physical stress on organs like your heart.

I encourage you to participate in this attitude of gratitude. Sometimes when things are stressful, remembering what we are thankful for helps us focus on the things we have and forget the things we don't have.  So as we enter this holiday season, spend some time being thankful. Your body will thank YOU for that.