Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

A Simple Exercise To Improve Your Longevity

July 10, 2024

As Physical Therapists, we frequently work with patients on restoring lost function from pain, injury, surgery, or disease.   Our brains have evolved over time to find and focus on the areas of our life that are missing, often at the expense of what is present.  For example, the painful back or swollen knee prevents us from appreciating our healthy brain, heart, or shoulder.  It is easy to lose perspective on what is going well when we become laser focused on what needs improvement.  Finding the appropriate balance between focusing on the injured body part and being grateful for the other fully function areas of the body is one of the keys during Physical Therapy.

The research on gratitude on mental health is well known, but new research is showing those who are grateful and/or those who express gratitude frequently have improved physical health compared to their peers.  Research has moved past initial studies showing gratitude was correlated with physical health and now have shown gratitude may independently influence our physical health, quality of life, and lifespan.  A well done study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry journal adds to this research.

Chen and colleagues published their findings to determine if grateful individuals live longer than their peers (JAMA Psychiatry. 2024).  Authors conducted a population based cohort study of American female nurses (average age 79).  Close to 50,000 nurses participated in the study and were provided a gratitude questionnaire to complete over a 2 year period.  During this time frame, 4600 participants passed away.  Interestingly, authors concluded higher levels of gratitude were associated with longer life span among this population.  Results were independent of many confounding factors such as sociodemographics, social life, physical health, cognitive function, and mental health.

As you work through your next pain, injury, surgery, or set back keep perspective by giving thanks for what is working well and what opportunities you have available for recovery.

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