Is gratitude a part of your health plan? Many of us prioritize nourishing our bodies, staying hydrated, and supplementing to boost our health, but overlook the importance of a grateful heart. If you want to invite an abundance of all sorts into your life, an attitude of thankfulness is the best way to start. Below, I share both the health benefits associated with gratitude, and a few of my favorite exercises for shifting my focus to one of thanks.
A Prescription for Gratitude
Two celebrated psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, are considered the experts on gratitude. In one study, participants were assigned a writing exercise. One group was instructed to focus on things they were grateful for. Another wrote about events that aggravated them. A third group wrote with no particular instruction. When the study concluded at 10 weeks, the gratitude group was both more optimistic and satisfied with their lives.
Gratitude has a profound effect on physical health also. Paul Mills, a professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, has found a direct correlation between gratitude and health. His studies involved journaling as well. 100% of the 40 participants who were instructed to focus on things they were grateful for showed lower levels of inflammation!
Studies have proven that gratitude lowers stress, contributes to better sleep, boosts mood, strengthens the immune system and builds relationships. It also benefits our emotional health by increasing feelings of satisfaction, love, and compassion. Wow! Unfortunately, in our society of constant comparison, it can be hard to feel grateful for what you have, when others seem to have so much more.
3 Ways to Practice Gratitude Every Day of the Year
While it is often reserved for the holidays, living a life of thankfulness is one of the most powerful gifts you can give to yourself and your loved ones. Here are three ways to bring gratitude into your life each day.
1. Embrace Mindfulness
At least once per day, stop what you’re doing and let go of all your worries. Focus on the present moment. Don’t think about that gossip you overheard yesterday, or the three things you need from the grocery store. Sometimes its hard to focus on the present moment with all that we have to think about. Try taking a big deep breath – and let it go slowly. It will suddenly place you in the present moment. If one breath doesn’t do it, take a few more. When you breath deeply and calmly, your body naturally relaxes. This exercise can help derail negative thought-patterns, and can help you recognize the beauty in the world around you.
2. Help Someone In Need
One of the best ways to expand your feeling of gratitude is by helping someone else who needs you. When you help someone else – it takes your focus off of your problems. It also helps you feel good because you’ve made a difference in someone else’s life.
3. Start a Gratitude Practice
For some people, keeping a gratitude journal is a powerful way to keep track of the abundance in life. Each day, write down five things you are thankful for. For me, it works better to say out loud what I’m thankful for. I always list the wonderful people who both support my life and love me in my gratitude. If you’re struggling, look at your surroundings. It can be the warm socks on your feet, or the way your dog’s tail wags when you get home after a long day. Acknowledging these things keeps your focus on the positive, rather than the things you lack.
4. Write Thank You Notes
These aren’t the obligatory notes you write after someone gives you a gift (although those can be meaningful as well). These are heartfelt, out-of-the-blue notes for traits that you admire in other people. This simple art of saying Thank You is a way to uplift both others and yourself. You’ll show others how much you appreciate their individuality, and also create the space for you to be yourself as well.
This Thanksgiving, I would like to say thank you to each and every one of you. I started Heart to Heart Medical Center as a labor of love, and the response I have received is overwhelming. Together, we can cultivate a community of caring, healing, love, and gratitude in order to make this a better world for all of us. I wish you a Thanksgiving holiday filled with blessings, love, and abundant goodness.