wellness

Science Catches Up To Ancient Wisdom

heart_light_blackground_518497_hAriana Huffington of Huffington Post fame has written her latest book, Thrive, about long-held beliefs and practices that science now supports. She orients these practices around four pillars: well being, wisdom, wonder, and giving & compassion.

The beliefs and their scientific foundations are as follows:

  1. Helping others can improve your health: research shows that helping others and having meaning in life, a eudaimonic (as opposed to hedonic) form of happiness, can produce more antibodies to keep the body strong.
  2. Acupuncture can balance and restore the body: working with qi or chi, the body’s own energy, this technique can relieve migraines, arthritis and chronic pain. Science now proves that acupuncture really works.
  3. We thrive in communities: the research indicates that people with stronger social relationships have a 50% greater likelihood of survival. These findings hold across age, sex and initial health status!
  4. Tai chi can improve many health conditions: another modality that works with the body’s own energy, tai chi can alleviate symptoms associated with heart disease, arthritis, breast cancer, and other conditions, according to studies.
  5. Meditation reduces stress and promotes peace: the research shows an actual biological effect in the body whereby meditation enhances gene expression that improves metabolism and insulin secretion, boosting immunity and reducing inflammation.
  6. Compassion cultivates a meaningful life: the science on this topic shows compassion can increase empathy and a more meaningful, purposeful, and healthy life.
  7. Accepting what we can’t change reduces suffering: this holds true especially for the aging, who must relinquish control over some aspects of their life, and adapt to others. Research suggests this ability to let go enhances their happiness.
  8. Love matters most: a 75-year study concluded that love, and the ability to stay open to loving relationships, is the most important thing in life.

And there we have it: science has caught up to the ancient wisdom of our ancestors.

Source: The Third Metric

Image credit: Victory of the People via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

Gratitude: A Priceless Habit

card-handmade-thank-1207660-hSometimes it can feel like life is tough. One quality that is really powerful in changing our attitudes from negative to positive, and reframing what happens day-to-day, is gratitude. Gratitude is a practice of appreciation for what life brings us. Research suggests that expressing gratitude can strengthen relationships, improve psychological wellbeing, promote altruism and pay-it-forward style giving, and make you happier.

Cultivating certain practices or habits can promote gratitude. For example:

  1. Contemplate death: this helps us not take life for granted, but enjoy our lives (as someone who volunteers in hospice, I can attest that this really works)
  2. Savor good experiences: this helps anchor positivity in your mind
  3. Avoid entitlement: instead, cultivate a practice of receiving life’s gifts and giving to others in ways that acknowledge how interconnected life is
  4. Appreciate people: not just things, because showing our gratitude can uplift loved ones and strangers too
  5. Be specific: say exactly what you are grateful for
  6. Be grateful when it feels like you can’t: sometimes appreciating hardships can transform them

Expressing gratitude is important to maintain a positive mindset even in times of stress; some ways to express gratitude include writing thank you notes, keeping a gratitude journal, praying, and meditating. The benefits of are myriad and can improve our personal, social, professional, emotional, and physical lives. Gratitude is a priceless habit to build; time to give it a go if you haven’t already!

Image credit: Laura Manning via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

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