#364 Is Practicing Daily Forgiveness and Gratitude Better for Blood Pressure than a Medication?

Is Practicing Daily Forgiveness and Gratitude Better for Blood Pressure than a Medication?

Does your blood pressure occasionally run higher than 120/80? And do you subconsciously keep reaching for your smartphone? Well, here’s some news that might just make you feel better about it!

A recent study presented this week at our annual American College of Cardiology meetings in Atlanta explored this topic. Could something as simple as reading a daily text message encouraging you to practice daily gratitude and forgiveness keep your blood pressure in check?

Let’s break down what this study, known as the FEEL study, found and what it means for you. The full name of this new study is as follows: “A Clinical Trial to Evaluate the Influence of a Spirituality Intervention on Blood Pressure Control, Central Hemodynamics and Endothelial Function – The Feel Study.”

What Was the Study About?

The FEEL study, conducted in Brazil, focused on adults with stage 1 and 2 hypertension. Stage 1 hypertension is when your blood pressure runs somewhere between 130/80 and 139/89. And stage 2 hypertension is when your blood pressure is above 140/90.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common condition that can lead to serious health issues if left untreated. For example, high blood pressure increases your risk of atrial fibrillation by about 50%. Also, untreated high blood pressure can take many years off your life in addition to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure, etc.

The researchers in the FEEL study wanted to see if a simple daily text message encouraging gratitude and forgiveness could help manage high blood pressure and improve overall heart health.

What Did the Intervention Involve?

The 100 participants in the study were randomly divided into two groups: one receiving usual care for hypertension, and the other receiving usual care along with daily smartphone messages aimed at promoting spirituality and reflection. These messages encouraged participants to reflect on topics like optimism, gratitude, and forgiveness. They also included occasional tasks, such as writing messages of gratitude.

What Were the Results?

After 12 weeks, the researchers found some promising results. Participants who received the daily smartphone messages showed a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) compared to those who received usual care alone. Specifically, the group that got the text messages saw a bigger drop in their blood pressure, about 7.6 points, while the other group only saw a tiny drop of about 0.55 points.

A 7.6 point reduction in their systolic blood pressure (the top number on a blood pressure reading) is a big deal! In fact a 7.6 point reduction in the systolic blood pressure is more than what we see with a typical blood pressure lowering medication!

Additionally, the study looked at a measure called flow-mediated dilation (FMD), which is a marker of blood vessel health. The group receiving the smartphone messages showed a 4% improvement in their FMD, while those being treated the usual way for high blood pressure saw a 3% decrease in their FMD.

How Does Practicing Daily Gratitude and Forgiveness Help Blood Pressure?

Daily gratitude and forgiveness can potentially decrease blood pressure in hypertensive individuals through various mechanisms. Firstly, practicing gratitude and forgiveness may reduce stress levels by promoting positive emotions and reducing negative ones like anger and resentment. Lower stress levels can lead to a decrease in the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which are known to elevate blood pressure.

Additionally, gratitude and forgiveness can improve overall mental well-being, which in turn may positively impact physical health.

Furthermore, engaging in these practices may foster healthier lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise and better dietary choices, which are known to contribute to lower blood pressure. Overall, the combination of reduced stress, improved mental health, and healthier lifestyle behaviors may collectively contribute to the observed decrease in blood pressure among hypertensive individuals who practice daily gratitude and forgiveness.

What Does This Study Mean for You?

These findings suggest that practicing daily gratitude and forgiveness can help to keep your blood pressure down and your arteries healthy. And as we often say in the cardiology world, “you are only as old as your arteries.” So, the healthier you can keep your arteries the longer you’ll live, the healthier your brain will be, and the more likely you will be to avoid heart problems.

For me, yet another daily text message is highly stressful. Thus, instead of signing up for a daily spiritual reminder on my phone, I listen to two daily spiritual podcasts while driving to the hospital or during my daily exercise. As a physician for almost three decades, I’ve noticed significant cardiovascular benefits in my patients from incorporating some form of daily spirituality.


The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. If you have high blood pressure work with your healthcare provider to get it under control as soon as possible.

About the Photo

Absorbing the spring warmth of Salt Lake City during my inaugural mountain bike excursion of the year this past week. This sun-drenched trail, providing a panoramic vista of the city skyline against the backdrop of lingering mountain snow, offers a captivating sight. These mountain bike outings afford ample opportunities for me to listen to spiritual podcasts, fostering gratitude, forgiveness, and in maintaining optimal blood pressure readings.

Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.