Thank your way to a happy brain

Dr. W.C. Verch - Contributing Columnist
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Even though it is nowhere near November, you should really take time to reflect on what you have to be thankful for. There have been several studies that have shown being thankful physically improves the health of your brain. Researchers have found that having a grateful attitude improves one’s immune system, heart health, and overall happiness.

Affect: [a-fekt] In psychology, affect mediates an organism’s interaction with stimuli. We all have a demeanor, mood, or “vibe.” When you are grateful, as with any emotion, it will be displayed in your affect. This will stimulate other positive emotions to surface which provide powerful physical health benefits.

According to research, when we reflect on things we are grateful for our parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated. As you may have read me mention this in previous articles, this is the side of the nervous system that slows things down, if I were to oversimplify. This results in a calmer, less stressed affect. Simultaneously, this results in chemical reactions that increase oxytocin (a feel good hormone) and decrease cortisol (stress hormone).

A great example can be found in an article from the European Scientific Journal, June 2017, which studied the direct relationship between gratitude and coping with PTSD. PTSD is perhaps the greatest example of overstimulation of the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system. PTSD is the result of maximal stress over a long period of time, resulting in sometimes permanent psychological distress. The researchers in the article found when gratitude increased, the distress equally decreased.

The American Heart Association (Nov. 16) published a study consisting of patients with asymptomatic heart failure. Just as the aforementioned study involving PTSD, a direct relationship was found between the improvement in heart health and their levels of gratitude. They also found that the patients who were able to exhibit gratitude became less anxious, slept better and even came out of depression.

Even pain and inflammation have been found to decrease by becoming more grateful.

So, the question is, are you thinking yourself sick?

If so, maybe its time to develop an attitude of gratitude.

I am not under the illusion that anyone can just drop all their problems and be happy, but here are some ways to up the ante on your gratitude.

1) Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Comparing your life, body, or possessions to those of another will never result in happiness. (My personal Achille’s heel)

2) Make it intentional. Personal growth doesn’t just happen. Take time daily to reflect on what you have to be grateful for. It really helps to write it down, if anything blesses you today, get it on paper. It makes for a great reminder later.

3) Change your perspective. The old proverb “when one door closes…” really is the gospel truth. So always look for the silver lining.

4) Speak it out. Let people know you appreciate them, that you are grateful for your life or circumstances. You will hear your own words, and will, in time, live by them.

I hope this article finds you well! For your health, wellness, and relationships, take a little time to be thankful every day. You will love the way it makes you feel.

As always,

Be Well

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Dr. W.C. Verch

Contributing Columnist

Dr. W.C. Verch runs Carolina West Clinic of Chiropractic, 1112 Calhoun Street, Newberry, you can reach him at 803-597-5099.

Dr. W.C. Verch runs Carolina West Clinic of Chiropractic, 1112 Calhoun Street, Newberry, you can reach him at 803-597-5099.