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Features

A heart full of gratitude promotes heart health

Herald News Features Editor Denise M. Baran-Unland
Herald News Features Editor Denise M. Baran-Unland

It's the time of year where people ask, or are asked, "What are you thankful for this year?"

On social media, people often post a month worth of examples.

Even the Bible exhorts the reader to give thanks (examples are provided at the end of this column).

Some people may equate "giving thanks" or "practicing gratitude" the same as entertaining a positive mind-set.

Some people are already saying, "Bah, humbug!"

Turns out, feeling thankful is your heart is actually good for your heart.

American Heart Association

In 2015, according to the American Heart Association, the University of California-San Diego studied the psychological health and the heart health 186 men and women with asymptomatic (Stage B) heart failure.

The study found that "patients who expressed higher levels of gratitude had less depression, less anxiety and slept better," the AHA said.

Blood tests were used to measure heath health and found that "patients with more gratitude had lower levels of inflammation and better heart health," the AHA said.

Greater Good Science Magazine

An article in the Greater Good Science Magazine, published by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California in Berkeley, referenced a pilot study, where patients with heart failure were asked to keep a gratitude journal for two months.

Patients who received their usual care and kept the gratitude journal had reduced inflammation and greater heart rate variability, both considered important signs of good health.

The article also said gratitude can also lessen stress and depression, which can also positively impact heart health.

Harvard Health Publishing – and some useful tips:

A story on the Harvard Health Publishing site said gratitude "helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships."

The same Harvard Health Story suggested the following activities to help promote gratitude:

• Write a thank you note – And then read it in person, if possible

• Mentally thank someone – It can help just to "think" the thanks.

• Keep a gratitude journal – Briefly record thankful moments of the day.

• Count your blessings – Set aside time each week to identify three to five blessings each week.

• Meditate – Focus on an person or event that makes you feel thankful

• Pray

And if you're uncertain where to begin with prayer here are some Bible verses to get you started.

You know, some people look at religion, Christianity especially, as a list of "thou shalt nots" – and that being told to give thanks is synonymous with "grin and bear it."

But God does not need our gratitude.

We do.

Some Bible verses about giving thanks:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:18

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

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