Welcome to week 4 of my blog!
This week, I focused on researching the components and multiple benefits of gratitude expression in preparation for understanding the results of my experiment and writing my research paper.
Gratitude expression is a common practice used to calm the mind and body, and it can present itself in different forms. One such example is through a meditation technique called ‘loving-kindness meditation’ (LKM) which “typically involves opening the mind to receive love from others and then sending well wishes to loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and all living beings” (Healthline). When practicing this meditation technique, both the brain and body are significantly impacted. According to a case report article published last year in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, those who practice long-term loving-kindness meditation have “increased activation in the amygdala, right temporoparietal junction, and right posterior superior temporal sulcus … In response to emotional stimuli, long-term practitioners of LKM can alter the activation of neural circuitries linked to empathy and the theory of mind” (Wang et. al, 2022). The study reports that LMK helps improve the overall motivation and socio-cognitive skills of those who practice it. In terms of physicality, the case study found that practicing loving-kindness meditation was positively correlated with decreased heart rate.
When consistently practiced, gratitude expression can be used to improve social, emotional, and physical health. By exploring the complex applications of expressing gratitude, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the results I have seen within my experiment so far, as well as what to expect going forward. I have already begun to see some decreases in overall blood pressure (patients have been showing a lowering of systolic blood pressure mostly, with many having an original BP of 140/90 and then it becoming 130/90 after experimental participation) after patients have given gratitude responses, but because I am not doing a longitudinal study, the true effects of sustained gratitude expression may not be reflected in my results. I have involved each participant in my study for only a day, as many patient visits are several months apart, so the impact of gratitude reflection, while apparent, is more minimal than other, longer, studies may show. However, I will continue to study and explore gratitude and how I can use it to improve the experiences of those with hypertension.
Next week I will focus on continuing my experiment, hopefully gaining enough participants to finish it by week 6 or 7.
Sullivan, Courtney. “Which Type of Meditation Is Right for You?” Healthline, 28 September 2020, https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/types-of-meditation
Wong, G., Sun, R., Adler, J., Yeung, K. W., Yu, S., & Gao, J. (2022). Loving-kindness meditation (LKM) modulates brain-heart connection: An EEG case study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 16. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2022.891377