The Thanksgiving holiday is a perfect time to reflect on everything we are grateful for in our lives. Research shows that gratitude has daily benefits, both psychologically and physiologically, no matter the time of year.
Dr. Lindsey Root Luna, associate professor of psychology at Hope College, is a clinical psychologist who investigates how virtues are connected to our physiology. In particular, she is interested in the how embodying gratitude, mindfulness, forgiveness, and hope impact our psychological and physiological functioning. In a recent study with Hope neuroscience students, Root Luna investigated the influence of brief gratitude, mindfulness, and hope inductions in combating worry in college students. Although the mindfulness imagery had a greater impact on physiology, like muscle tension and respiration rate, gratitude imagery produced the most positive outcomes psychologically.
The end of daylight savings is near, this year on Sunday, November 4. While the clock changing event might give you an extra hour of sleep, “falling back” still affects your circadian clock for a few days and so do the resulting dim days that follow.
Dr. Andrew Gall, assistant professor of psychology, is a behavioral neuroscientist who focuses his research on understanding the neural mechanisms and functions of sleep and circadian rhythms. He recently studied how dim light, a winter malady, is capable of disrupting the expression of circadian rhythms. Specifically, dim light causes a shift in behavioral patterns, such that it is more difficult to be awake during the day and can lead to more wakefulness at night. In his recent study forthcoming in the Journal of Comparative Psychology (a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the American Psychological Association), Nile grass rats — a day-active species — became more night-active when they were presented with dim light during the day. This has implications for us living in West Michigan, where about 70 percent of the days in the winter are cloudy, thus resulting in dim light. In fact, across the country, humans are exposed to less light in the winter, which can result in Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression, and mood swings.