November is the month when we celebrate one of our major holidays, Thanksgiving. During this month, many people focus on being thankful more than at any other time during the year.
I’m a firm believer that counting our blessings and having gratitude is a big part of being healthy, but it shouldn’t be something we practice only at Thanksgiving! There are many reasons why we should make gratitude and thankfulness a daily practice. In fact, research has shown that being thankful confers a whole host of health benefits.
The research is summarized in Robert Emmons’ book Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). Emmons and his colleagues at the University of California at Davis are among the pioneers in research on gratitude, part of a larger movement called positive psychology. Positive psychology, instead of focusing on illness and emotional problems, studies health-promoting behavior and the pleasurable parts of life.
Scientifically speaking, regular grateful thinking can increase happiness by as much as 25 percent while keeping a gratitude journal for as little as three weeks results in better sleep and more energy. In addition, people who cultivate an attitude of thankfulness generally have a better outlook on life which complements the body’s attempts at healing. So, when was the last time you stopped to really acknowledge the things you’re thankful for? Imagine how that could positively impact your health if you were to make this a daily practice rather than just once in awhile!
Benefits Of Being Grateful:
Stress Reducer – Stress contributes to every major disease on the plant and in some cases, it can outright kill you. Stress management is absolutely crucial to optimal health and longevity. The good news is that research is showing that being thankful or grateful has a positive effect on helping people cope with stress and all kinds of daily problems!
Immune Booster – Gratefulness is linked to optimism, which in turn is linked with better immune health, WebMD reports. For example, A University of Utah study showed that stressed out law students who were optimistic had more immune-boosting blood cells than people who were pessimistic, according to WebMD.
Better sleep – Writing down what you’re thankful for as you drift off to sleep can help you get better ZZ’s, according to a study in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Specifically, research found that when people spent 15 minutes jotting down what they’re grateful for in a journal before bedtime, they fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer, Psychology Today reported.
Fact Or Feeling?
What happens, though, when we don’t feel thankful or grateful? When life throws its curveball at you, and you have to face a health challenge or lose someone you love, it is extremely difficult to be grateful. Ultimately, though, gratitude is a decision or a way of looking at life and deciding how you will live. In other words, gratitude is a choice. You can choose to be angry, upset or unhappy; or you can choose to be grateful for what you have – no matter how small it appears to be. Which way sounds like a more enjoyable way to live?
I know that some of you may be thinking it sounds easier said than done. Negativity sometimes seems easier because it is so much easier to dwell on our problems rather than our blessings. We seem to be more wired to pay attention to the negative than to the positive, but you can overcome this by practicing gratitude.
When you create new habits and focus on the positive things in life, it truly brings more positive things your way. It is well-known that you get what you focus on, so why not make the object of your focus something positive rather than the negative? I know it works in my own life, even though I don’t always completely understand how it works, so I know it will work for you as well.
If You Want To Get Healthier, Give Thanks
If you would like to increase the level of gratitude in your life, here are some suggestions for getting started.
- Keep a daily gratitude journal. Write down three (or more) things that you are grateful for every day.
- Have a gratitude partner. Spend time with people who are also gratitude-minded, rather than the negative people that bring you down.
- Use visual reminders. Maybe it’s a Post-it note with a reminder of your blessings, or a picture that depicts what makes you happy. Using visual cues throughout your home or workspace makes it easier to keep thoughts of gratitude in front of you.
- Make a public commitment. Join one of the many social media challenges to post comments on what you are thankful for. If that’s not your thing, then tell another person that you are choosing to practice gratitude. When you verbalize it to someone else, you are more likely to follow through.
- Change your self-talk. Redirect a negative thought by focusing on something positive.
For the next ten days (up through Thanksgiving Day), I am going to challenge you to maintain a Gratitude Journal. Every morning, start your day with a simple gratitude meditation of 5 things you are grateful for. They can be big or small; it doesn’t really matter. Simply jot down the little moments of grace that happen effortlessly in your life. You will be amazed at how these small blessings can change your attitude about life!
I would love it if you share at least one gratitude comment on my Facebook page each day throughout the challenge, or comment below if you are not on Facebook! When you post, use the hashtag #iamgrateful.
To get this started, here are five things that I am grateful for:
- My family. I truly am blessed with an amazing family!
- My friends. Often, it’s the quality of friendships, not the quantity.
- My horse and my dog. Life is so much better with animals and their unconditional love.
- My health. Even if it isn’t perfect…it could be worse. I will be the best me that I can be!
- You! I feel blessed to do what I do and to be a small part of your journey to better health.
Make gratitude a habit! Have a healthy and blessed Thanksgiving everyone.
- Counting Your Blessings: How Gratitude Improves Your Health
- Boost Your Health With a Dose of Gratitude
- 10 Benefits of Gratitude
Disclaimer: The information contained herein is not to be construed as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any medical condition. These statements made have not been approved by the FDA, nor should they be taken as a substitute for medical advice from a licensed physician.
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