(NaturalNews) According to current research, gratitude and appreciation aren't just pleasant emotions, both offer tangible health benefits as well. The HeartMath Institute in California has taken these findings a step further, providing a systematic approach for cultivating true appreciation - which ultimately reduces stress, chronic disease and nervous system disorders. In our fast-paced and intense modern world, orienting oneself toward positive mental states can vastly improve the quality of life and promote longevity.
The dance between appreciation and science
A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that gratitude supports cardiovascular and immune system health. Participants were monitored while asked to recall for five minutes an incident that triggered anger. Next, the individuals were told instead to focus on a memory that inspired gratitude. Heart, pulse and respiration rates dramatically improved. The researchers believe that by cultivating gratefulness, stress is significantly reduced - thereby boosting immune function and strengthening overall health.
Furthermore, those who are grateful and appreciative often live longer. Charles D. Kerns, PhD, states in the journal Graziadio Business Review:
"In a fascinating longitudinal study, Catholic nuns who expressed gratitude, happiness, and positive emotions in their earlier years were found to live an average of up to ten years longer than their peers who did not express gratitude. In this research, Danner, Snowden, and Friesen discovered a significant inverse relationship between the positive emotional content in handwritten autobiographies of 180 Catholic nuns (at an average age of 22) and the risk of death later in life (ages 75 to 95). Expressions of positive emotions such as gratefulness in early life autobiographies seemed to relate to longevity of life 60 years later."
Importance of educating the heart
If you find gratitude and appreciation lacking in your day-to-day life, the Institute offers a few helpful observations and suggestions. It's important to first recognize that all emotions are intimately connected with the heart and body.
"The heart is in a constant two-way dialog with the brain. Our emotions change the signals the brain sends to the heart and the heart responds in complex ways. Today we now know the heart sends more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart, and the brain responds to the heart in many important ways. This research explains how the heart responds to emotional and mental reactions and why certain emotions stress the body and drain our energy. As we experience feelings like anger, frustration, anxiety and insecurity, our heart-rhythm patterns become more erratic. These erratic patterns are sent to the emotional centers in the brain, which recognizes them as negative, or stressful feelings. These signals create the actual feelings we experience in the heart area and elsewhere in the body. Erratic heart rhythms also block our ability to think clearly."
Yet, when we experience emotions such as compassion, care, love and appreciation, heart rhythm patterns become smooth and harmonious - indicating a balanced nervous and cardiovascular system. When the heart is at ease, health and well-being are fundamentally enhanced.
The Institute recommends several exercises to encourage heart rhythm equilibrium. Full instructions can be found here.
About the author: Carolanne believes if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change. As a nutritionist, natural foods chef and wellness coach, she has encouraged others to embrace a healthy lifestyle of green living for over 13 years. Through her website www.Thrive-Living.net she looks forward to connecting with other like-minded people who share a similar vision.