Gratitude Benefits to Boost Gut and Brain Health With Sam Heumann
Gratitude is our ability to be thankful and show appreciation. Beyond that, gratitude is also a powerful tool that we can use to boost our overall wellbeing! Hundreds of neuroscience studies have linked regular gratitude practice to a slew of benefits, including improvements in our skin, mood, digestion, sleep, and stress response… to name a few.
As an integrative health coach with a history of digestive issues, I was especially fascinated by the research that connected gratitude to better gut health!
Practicing gratitude regularly increases two important 'feel good' neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine. Of course, these happiness hormones contribute to a better mood, but serotonin also plays a critical role in our gut motility and appetite balance. More serotonin leads to better gut health by improving our digestive function and our intestinal sensitivity to pain and fullness. If you've heard of the gut-brain axis, this is an example of that neural highway in action, since more than 90% of the body's serotonin is produced in the gut!
A regular gratitude routine has also been shown to increase activity in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates our sleep, metabolism, and stress levels! Stress is always a hot topic. We know too much stress is bad…since chronic stress can suppress our immune system and disrupt hormones. The constant state of fight or flight also triggers digestive problems by limiting stomach acid and diverting blood to our limbs rather than our organs responsible for digestion. Not ideal when you're trying to enjoy a meal. By practicing gratitude, we are better equipped to manage stress triggers and shift our physiological response from fight or flight to rest and digest.
Hint: DIGEST, it's in the name! The process of digestion is demanding on the body. It takes a lot of energy to break down food and absorb nutrients. When we are stressed, our bodies may not digest all the nutrients effectively. This can contribute to more gas, or bloating, or constipation than normal.
By establishing a regular gratitude practice, we can balance stress and optimize our digestion for better gut-health!
How do we create a gratitude routine? There are plenty of ways, here are some of my favorites:
1. Journaling: I spend two minutes five days per week writing a list of people and
experiences I am grateful for and WHY I am grateful for them.
2. Mindfulness: I try to take a moment to pause during a hectic day to notice the good things and express appreciation for them.
3. Talking: At the end of the day or when we sit down for dinner, my partner and I share three good things that happened to us that day.
Creating a gratitude routine doesn't have to be a big time commitment, but it is more effective with consistency. Remember that small steps lead to big changes and giving thanks is something we can practice every day to boost our health - and it’s not only reserved for the annual holiday!
(Blog via our friend & Health Coach Sam Heumann of HumanlyWell.com)