Irish researchers showed that thankfulness has a unique stress-buffering impact on both responses to and recovery from acute psychological stress, which can lead to better cardiovascular health.
Knowing that stress affects humans and has an impact on their health and well-being, specifically causing high blood pressure and increasing cardiovascular morbidity and coronary heart disease, it is critical to understand our reactions to stress and identify any factors that can play key stress-buffering roles.
Brian Leavy, Brenda H. O’Connell, and Deirdre O’Shea propose in their article “Gratitude, affect balance, and stress buffering: A growth curve examination of cardiovascular responses to a laboratory stress task” published in January in the Journal of Psychophysiology, that while previous research suggests that gratitude and affect-balance play key stress-buffering roles, little is known about the impact of these variables on cardiovascular recovery from acident.
That was the topic of a study conducted by researchers from Ireland’s Universities of Maynooth and Limerick, who also wanted to know how affect balance modifies the association between thankfulness and cardiovascular responses to acute psychological stress.
The study, conducted at the Irish University of Maynooth, included 68 undergraduate students (24 male and 44 female) ranging in age from 18 to 57 years. This study employed a within-subjects experimental design with lab activities in which individuals were stressed and subsequently their cardiovascular reactivity and recovery were assessed.
The findings revealed that gratitude predicted reduced systolic blood pressure responses throughout the stress-testing period, indicating that gratitude has a unique stress-buffering effect on both reactions to and recovery from acute psychological stress. Affect balance was also discovered to enhance the benefits of state thankfulness.
These findings have therapeutic implications because there are various low-cost thankfulness therapies that can improve well-being (Wood et al., 2010). Previous study, for example, has demonstrated that cardiac patients who keep gratitude notebooks have better cardiovascular outcomes than those who do not (Redwine et al., 2016).
Combined with the findings of this study and other research, thankfulness may be a valuable point of action for improving our cardiovascular health.