We all know that Thanksgiving happens in November. It’s the one time a year we stop for a minute and express gratitude for all that we’ve been blessed with. But what would happen if we extended the tradition of giving thanks throughout the entire year instead of just during this holiday season?
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! I am truly grateful for my clients, and not just because it’s that time of year. I love walking with them on their individual health journeys, seeing them learn, change and heal in so many different ways.
There is always something to be thankful for and when you practice gratitude, it really benefits your entire body and well-being. Yes…just a positive emotion such as gratitude can improve your health!
Research has shown that regularly thinking grateful thoughts can increase happiness by as much as 25 percent and keeping a gratitude journal for as little as three weeks results in better sleep and more energy. And, people who cultivate an attitude of thankfulness generally have a better outlook on life which complements the body’s attempts at healing.
Gratitude is like a magnet; the more grateful you are, the more you will receive to be grateful for. – Iyanla Vanzant
When I say “practice gratitude,” that’s exactly what I mean. Just like learning to do anything else, you have to practice. Sometimes it will be easy, other times it will be hard, but the more you consciously look for things to be grateful for, the easier it will become. 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.
Three Benefits of Being Grateful
Stress Reducer – Did you know that stress contributes to every major disease on the planet? This means that 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 by helping people manage stress better and cope with difficult situations. It also decreases depression and anxiety levels.
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.
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 has shown that when people spend 15 minutes jotting down what they’re grateful for in a journal before bedtime, they fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Surely you can see why it’s so critical to practice gratitude daily throughout the entire year, not just in November?
Fact or Feeling?
What happens, though, when we don’t feel thankful or grateful? When life throws its curve ball at you, and you have to face a health challenge or lose someone you love, it’s extremely difficult to be grateful. Ultimately, though, gratitude is a decision or a way of looking at life and deciding how you will live. It means that you don’t let your circumstances determine your attitude – you determine your attitude towards your circumstances, whatever they may be. 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’s easier said than done. Negative thinking is common 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.
I 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 them down!!!
Make gratitude a habit!