The Powerful Benefits of Gratitude

At its best plastic surgery can help to bring a person’s appearance into harmony with his or her self image. I see this frequently with facial rejuvenations surgery. The aging process can play a cruel trick with the key zones of facial expression. The brow and corner or the mouth settle into a position that that can make a person appear angry or tired when that is not the case. For these patients facial rejuvenation surgery can be a wonderful gift that brings the facial appearance into harmony with their spirit.

The benefits of facial rejuvenation surgery are amplified in an individual who has built a foundation of beneficial habits. Patients who have developed these habits and stay with them for a long time tend to look younger than their age, have fewer chronic conditions, and often radiate vitality. This is true whether or not they undergo plastic surgery.

In chatting with my patients who have developed this internal fountain of youth, I have been impressed with how frequently they express feelings of gratitude, both for major events in their lives and the small pleasures of day-to-day existence. Slowly it dawned on me that a mindset that is based on gratitude might be a beneficial habit that can be developed to an individual’s advantage. As I studied this idea it became increasingly apparent that gratitude is a key habit that enhances health and well-being.

Although philosophers and religious leaders have recognized the value of gratitude for thousands of years, scientists have only recently begun to study gratitude using modern methods. A growing body of evidence suggests that there are powerful psychological and physical benefits to people who express gratitude on a regular basis.

Recent studies suggest that individuals who express gratitude on a frequent basis sleep better, have better interpersonal relations, and experience a higher level of happiness. There is also evidence that gratitude itself can lower blood pressure and improve the function of the immune system.

The field of gratitude research is in its infancy. There should be significant expansion of this important area due to the generosity of the John Templeton Foundation, which was established by the brilliant international investor and visionary. The foundation recently provided the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley with a $5.5 million grant that will expand the scientific study of gratitude.

I have given some thought as to why gratitude provides such a benefit to individuals who regularly express grateful thoughts. Gratitude carries significant power to displace negative emotions such as anger, jealousy, and entitlement. These negative emotions trigger stress hormones in the body, which over time can lead to physical and mental deterioration.

Gratitude Explored in Yale University Commencement Address

This year Peter Salovey, the president of Yale University, gave a wonderful commencement address to the graduating seniors that explored aspects of gratitude. I hope that the students who heard him speak take his words to heart, since the cultivation of gratitude will give them lifelong benefits.

A Simple Way to Develop Habits of Gratitude

One simple way to obtain the benefits of gratitude is to begin each day with a brief contemplation of three things you are grateful for. Some people find that it is helpful to keep a gratitude journal. It is also a benefit to express gratitude to people whom you encounter during the day. People who try this simple exercise often experience a powerful sense of well-being, which in turn improves their relations with their friends, families and co-workers.