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November is National Gratitude Month, but thankfulness can benefit your heart all year long.

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By: Karen Yontz Center Staff

A Grateful Heart Is a Healthy Heart

Thanksgiving is the time of year where we take stock of the wonderful things we have in our life and say “thank you” for them. But if you are someone who only stops to be thankful for your blessings in November, there is a good reason to do it every day instead. Researchers have found that people who take time each day to practice gratitude not only are happier in general, but they are usually healthier too—and that includes heart health.

What does it mean to express gratitude? Gratitude is a point of view that allows us to notice and appreciate the positive aspects of life. And while actively practicing gratitude doesn’t mean that a person no longer sees the negativity in their life, it does help them more readily acknowledge the positive. This ability to notice the positive and give it more weight than the negative has a whole host of benefits. Those with grateful dispositions tend to sleep better, have lower stress levels, exercise more often and eat healthier. In fact, in a study of patients who have heart failure that have yet to develop symptoms, those who were comfortable with expressing gratitude tended to have less fatigue and feel more confident in their ability to care for themselves. They also had less systemic inflammation—a condition that could speed up the progression of heart failure.

Cultivating gratitude is something that many of us aren’t used to doing daily, however. We need to train ourselves to be grateful and an easy way to start doing so is by keeping a gratitude journal. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy—it can be on your phone or a simple notebook by your bed. Take 5 or 10 minutes at the end of your day and write down 3 things you are grateful for. This simple act not only causes you to pause and reflect on the positive things in your life, but it creates a record for you to look back on during times when you might be feeling down or like nothing is going well for you. If you are having difficulty coming up with ideas, look at the different aspects of your life: your health, your relationships, your surroundings, your job. Did you eat something delicious today? Did you catch the sunset on your drive home? Did you finally hold a plank for one minute? Be as specific as you can. Before long, looking at the positive and saying thank you for what you have will be as second-nature as saying it on Thanksgiving Day.

For more resources on cultivating a heart-healthy mindset, visit The Karen Yontz Center Monday through Friday between 8AM and 4:30PM.

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