Reduce Stress With Gratitude

article mental health

  December 2, 2022

Stress is a serious issue!

In fact, stress is a major contributing factor to the six leading causes of death (in the United States): cancer, coronary heart disease, accidental injuries, respiratory disorders, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.1

One of the hormones associated with stress is cortisol. Cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands, is our body’s natural response to stress - or as I like to say “perceived threat” (because we’re still operating a million-year-old brain, and the response is essentially one that is preparing us for fight or flight, from a threat).

Whilst cortisol is also required for the metabolism of glucose, reducing inflammation, and various other beneficial processes, it becomes a problem when cortisol levels become elevated for continuous periods of time - known as the chronic-stress state.

Acute stress is normal! Chronic stress is a problem, and causes wear and tear on the body including increased risk of hypertension, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, obesity, vulnerability to infection, a range of mental health disorders, reproductive system problems and sexual dysfunction, and more!2

The counterpunch for cortisol is DHEA - a hormone also produced by the adrenal glands.

Increases in DHEA have been shown to combat depression, improve mood, boost sexual function, as well as enhancing joints and potentially warding off osteoarthritis.3,4 Other research revealed improved cognitive abilities such as concentration, executive (decision-making) function, and working memory.5

Is it any wonder that DHEA is considered the “fountain of youth”?!6

In one study, those that adopted an attitude of appreciation decreased cortisol levels by 23% and increased DHEA by 100%.7

By practicing gratitude we not only counter the impact of stress, but dramatically boost our health and vitality!

Every morning I write down 3 things I’m thankful for. Typically, I theme them around areas that I want to prime for the day. An example would be “I’m thankful for the endless energy I have to execute my mission”.

Priming is when we create a “sensitivity” to something, that then later alters our behavior in some way non-consciously.

I also use a notepad and pen because the research has shown that it engages more of the brain than typing, and is important for the learning process8 - essentially helping the idea “stick”!

So whether you have a process like mine, use some other method, or you’re considering incorporating a gratitude practice... taking the time to appreciate each and every day, in just a few simple ways, can make an extraordinary difference to our health and performance by busting stress and boosting DHEA.