A new U.S. study featured by Reuters reveals that heart failure patients can heal better, simply by feeling grateful. The research conducted by Paul Mills and his team at the departments of public health and psychiatry at the University of California in San Diego were able to make a connection to better sleep and mood when it came to patients feeling grateful. The study also linked lower levels of inflammation within those individuals dealing with heart failure. While prior studies have focused on the benefits of spirituality and quality of life, this new study had a deeper focus on physical health.
“We wanted to examine gratitude in a population that has been challenged in terms of their cardiac health,” said Mills. Deepak Chopra, famous author and advocate of alternative health, was also included in the study team. The team focused on 186 patients from California cardiology clinics, which had Stage B heart failure; meaning, some would have had heart abnormalities, without further complications. The study team decided to choose patients at this stage, as issues can still be reversed during this time.
Patients evaluated their spirituality, their ability to manage their heart function, and gratitude; they were also asked to take a closer look at any signs of depression, levels of sleep, and energy. The study team did blood work on each patient, to review inflammation. They then assessed the data of each participant, and looked for any connections between gratefulness, spirituality, and their symptoms. What they ended up finding was that patients who were grateful simply slept better, therefore had more energy, were less likely to be depressed, had higher self-efficacy, and less indicators of inflammation. They also assessed symptoms against those patients with spiritual wellbeing, and while they slept better, had more energy, were less likely to be depressed, and had higher rates of self-efficacy; they did not have lower inflammation.
As Mills states, “It was the gratitude aspect of spirituality that accounted for those effects, not spirituality per se.” In addition, the team revealed results regarding a sub-study conducted; where certain patients were ask to participate in gratitude journaling for eight weeks, alongside their treatments. It revealed those who participated in the journaling also experienced decreased indicators of inflammation, and a rise in heart-rate variability; while a group who did not participate in the exercise had no changes in this regard.