01 Nov Gratitude, Mindfulness and Your Health
“Gratitude is the best medicine. It heals your mind, your body, and your spirit. And attracts more things to be grateful for.”
As we begin the month of November, we are beginning a very special time of the year. So with the holidays approaching we are creating a challenge to think and act a bit differently this year. Since this is a season for giving and receiving gifts we want to really focus on gratitude. It can be easy to get caught up in the activities of preparing for the holidays and the gifts to be given so that we forget about the “reason for the season”. Hence our focus on mindfulness in our activities and taking time to really feel and share our sense of gratitude.
Robert Emmons, a world-renowned expert on the science of gratitude talks about his research in his book, “Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier”:
“We discovered scientific proof that when people regularly engage in systematic cultivation of gratitude, they experience a variety of measurable benefits: psychological, physical, and interpersonal. The evidence on gratitude contradicts a widely held view that all people have a ‘set-point’ of happiness that cannot be reset by any known means: in some cases, people have reported that gratitude led to transformative life changes. And, even more important, the family, friends, partners, and others that surround them consistently report that people who practice gratitude seem measurably happier and are more pleasant to be around.”
We have seen a growing wealth of research on the benefits of acknowledging gratitude (that’s where the mindfulness is so important and comes into play) and on the mechanisms of how practicing gratitude succeeds in creating a positive impact in our lives. From the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, we learn that practitioners of gratitude have:
Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure
Higher levels of positive emotions
More joy, optimism, and happiness
More generosity and compassion
Less feelings of loneliness and isolation
So how does this work? A look at recent neuroscience studies at the NIH (National Institute of Health) on the subject tells us that when we feel gratitude our brain does two things: first, we increase dopamine levels, that’s the “feel good” brain chemical which also promotes taking action and forming repeat habits, activating a positive response in the brain and body again and again; and second, there is increased activity in the hypothalamus (which influences our stress levels and controls bodily habits such as eating, drinking, and sleeping) to promote better sleep, nutrition, and decreased depression.
So, when we practice gratitude our brains are wired to promote positive responses, resulting in better relationships, sleep, health, mood, happiness, and satisfaction.
With consistent practice of gratitude, we decrease stress, anxiety, depression and recover from trauma faster. And it’s as easy as writing a thought or two a day of what you are grateful for on paper, telling people in your life why you appreciate them, and/or focusing on the positive in situations throughout your day.
You can start by thinking of one thing you are grateful for today. Maybe it’s a person, some act of kindness, or a special furry friend who keeps you company. This is where the act of mindfulness comes into play. It is easy these days with our busy schedules to get caught up in the activities that need to be completed without ever really taking the time to savor where we are or what we are doing. Mindfulness is about using all our senses to really “take in” the people, sights, sounds, smells, feelings and tastes of where we are and what we are doing. It is about letting that voice in our heads that is always talking to us be quiet long enough for us to become aware of what our senses are registering. As we truly experience our experience gratitude is easier to find, recognize and feel.
Now pause and take a couple of minutes to think about how this can impact your life in a positive way. Please share your thoughts with us here or on Facebook!
We are so grateful for you and that you have entrusted us to assist you with you and your family’s health and wellbeing!
Here is a simple idea you can use at home or at work to get things started
A Family Gratitude Jar
Put a jar out on November 1st and throughout the month family members can add things to the jar that they are thankful for that can then be shared at dinner on Thanksgiving Day.
“It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude.
It’s gratitude that brings us happiness”