Can Gratitude Really Contribute to My Health?
A few days ago, I started my morning in a very perturbed mindset. I was frantically running out the door late for an appointment and spilled my entire smoothie onto my freshly ironed clothes, the car door, and the garage floor. I soon noticed that the car tire was flat, and within minutes, my carefully planned day had changed. I had four important appointments scheduled and all had canceled for valid reasons. Granted, nothing tragic happened and for that I was grateful. I knew I needed to hit the “reset” button on my Tuesday morning.
I had just read about the power and healing in practicing gratitude. I certainly was not in the mindset of being thankful; in fact, I wanted to slug someone. I knew my perspective needed to shift before the day declined further. I started to mentally list everything I was grateful for starting with the very basics of food, shelter, and comfort of loved ones. As I continued this throughout the day, I replaced negativity and complaining with positive statements. Initially, this was not easy, but I slowly became aware of the self-defeating thoughts, challenged them, and everything shifted! I began to relax around the shoulders and felt a sense of calm. The day suddenly became more manageable.
Research shows that practicing gratitude makes people more resilient, strengthens relationships, improves health, reduces stress, and actually makes people happier. Emmons says that those who practice grateful thinking "reap emotional, physical and interpersonal benefits." People who regularly keep a gratitude journal report fewer illness symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole, and are more optimistic about the future. He concludes that gratitude is a choice, one possible response to our life experiences. *
I invite you to bring gratitude into your week by taking a moment to mentally acknowledge something you are thankful for in your day. Maybe you do this right now or practice gratefulness during a designated time like right before eating or before going to bed. We are likely not happy with more, until we are happy with what we have. Gratitude shifts our focus from what life lacks to the gifts that are already present knowing we are always provided with everything we need. Find a gratitude accountability partner and make it a healthy habit.
“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” Willie Nelson
How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Emmons, 2007).