Gratitude Is Medicine
Posted by Dr. Alda Ngo
Thanksgiving is looking a little bit different this year, amid these extraordinary times. Our Chief Medical Officer of Health is recommending that we take care to protect ourselves and to keep our gatherings small this weekend. Our neighbouring BC’s provincial health officer is encouraging people “to make our celebration large in thanks, large in gratitude, but small in size”
Gratitude knows no boundaries and although I am personally missing the big turkey dinner gathering this year, it feels like a small and temporary sacrifice to keep my cohort small this weekend – an offering of kindness and generosity to our vulnerable community members and frontline workers. We have so much to be grateful for, and to have one another’s backs is an act of love. Although we don’t need research to prove it, studies do show that practicing gratitude is good for us.
‘The Telomere Effect’, written by a molecular biologist and a psychiatric researcher, is a collaboration explaining how stress reduction and promotion of mental health can positively affect the length of telomeres and improve health and longevity.
Telomeres are protective cap-like structures at the end of each of our chromosomes. They play a critical role in cellular health, as the DNA in telomeres protects against chromosomal damage. Being in good health is associated with having longer telomeres, whereas shorter ones are associated with having health issues. Studies indicate that our positive habits and social environment can encourage telomere growth.
The book explains that in earlier tribal days, we lived in groups and each group had a delegation of trusted members who would stay up on watch during the night. The community relied on them to stay awake and alert to dangers like fires, predators or enemies. Belonging to a group and having trustworthy night-watch people was critical for survival and a healthy sense of safety.
Today, our brains are still wired to need the security of someone who ‘has our back’. Social connection is a basic human need and studies reveal that having good friends is like having good night watchmen, and even protects our telomeres.
Studies also confirm that practicing gratitude and keeping a gratitude journal increases happiness and resilience as well as physical health and longevity.
Happy thanksgiving friends, may we all take refuge in knowing that we’re all in one another’s hearts and remember to feel deeply grateful for the moments that we share near and far.
For more information on how we can support you on your path toward well-being please feel free to book a free 15-minute phone consult.
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- PMID: 23370895
- Lyubomirsky, S., & Della Porta, M. (in press). Boosting happiness, buttressing resilience: Results from cognitive and behavioral interventions. In J. W. Reich, A. J. Zautra, & J. Hall (Eds.), Handbook of adult resilience: Concepts, methods, and applications. New York: Guilford Press.
- DOI: 10.1111/j.1758-0854.2010.01045.x