As stress can negatively impact health and well-being, including increasing blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk, understanding our reactions to stress and identifying potential stress-buffering factors is crucial.

A recent paper published in the Journal of Psychophysiology, by Brian Leavy, Brenda H. O’Connell and Deirdre O’Shea, suggests that while previous research indicates that gratitude and affect balance may play a role in buffering stress, little is known about their impact on cardiovascular recovery from acute psychological stress.

That was the main goal of the study conducted by scientists from the Irish Universities of Maynooth and Limerick. They also wanted to know whether affect balance influenced the link between gratitude and the cardiovascular effects of acute psychological stress.

At the Irish University of Maynooth, 68 undergraduate students (24 male and 44 female) between the ages of 18 and 57 participated in the study.

This research used a within-subjects experimental design using laboratory activities that generated stress in the participants before measuring their cardiovascular reactivity and recovery.

The study found that individuals who reported a state of gratitude had lower systolic blood pressure responses during the stress-testing period. This suggests that gratitude has a unique ability to buffer stress, both in terms of reactions to and recovery from acute psychological stress. Additionally, the study found that affect balance enhances the stress-buffering effects of gratitude.

These results are clinically relevant since low-cost gratitude therapies may improve well-being (Wood et al., 2010).

For example, research from the past has shown that heart patients who keep gratitude journals do better than those who don’t (Redwine et al., 2016).

Considering the findings of this study and other research, gratitude may be a good start when trying to improve your cardiovascular health.

Image Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images


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