Thanksgiving is a holiday for noticing and appreciating the wonderful things in our life. But did you know evidence shows that feeling gratitude throughout your day, everyday, can lead to better health and well-being?
Gratitude Has Been Held In High Regard
Gratitude is a common theme through many religions and philosophies. Cicero reportedly called it the “mother of all virtues.”
Greek philosopher Epictetus said: “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”
Charles Dickens shared a similar sentiment with his phrase, “Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
Here are three ways gratitude improves your health daily plus tips for incorporating gratitude into your daily life.
1. Gratitude Reduces Negative Emotions and Stress
Studies show people who are grateful feel healthier and report less aches and pains.
Glenn Fox, an expert in the science of gratitude
at the USC Marshall School of Business says “Benefits associated with gratitude include better sleep, more exercise, reduced symptoms of physical pain, lower levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure and a host of other things we associate with better health”
Gratitude reduces feelings of stress. It changes the chemistry of your body by allowing you to come out of fight/flight into the rest and digest mode of your nervous system where health and healing occur naturally.
Practicing gratitude reduces toxic emotions such as resentment, envy, regret and frustration. These emotions increase cortisol and blood sugar. They also release inflammatory hormones into your body. You can’t hold any of these feelings in your mind when you’re in a state of gratitude.
2. Gratitude Improves Digestion
When you practice gratitude the digestive system stays in a “rest and digest” mode allowing easier digestion. It’s hard to digest your food well when you’re tense or worrying about something, but a feeling of gratitude helps you focus on the positive things rather than the negative ones. It gives your body the relaxed state it needs for optimal digestion.
Practicing gratitude makes you more aware of what is happening around you.
Taking a moment to be thankful for your food keeps you from eating too fast. It slows down your first bite and makes it much more likely that the rest of your meal will be eaten more slowly too. Eating slowly gives your body time digest as you eat. You’ll feel more satisfied.
Your digestion is affected by your attitude about what you’re eating. You’ll digest whatever you eat better when you are enjoying it rather than feeling guilty. Feeling “I love my body just as it is and am so thankful for everything it does for me” equals better digestion.
Whatever you eat, savor the taste and texture of your food. Know that your body is capable of digesting and metabolizing what you’re eating. Your body is strong. Trust it.
3. Gratitude Improves Sleep
When it comes to bedtime rituals for better sleep
, spending a few minutes feeling gratitude is far more effective than fluffing pillows or sipping a nice cup of herbal tea.
According to Robert Emmons
, a psychology professor and one of world’s leading scientific experts on gratitude, just jotting down a few reasons to feel thankful before bed could net you an extra half hour of quality sleep.
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
The goal is to move your mind from thinking about gratitude occasionally to making it second nature. As you practice, you’ll lower your gratitude threshold so that you’re grateful for little things — and you’ll let in more gratitude.
By virtue of the law of attraction, more things to be grateful for will come into your life.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Each morning or evening write a few things you’re grateful for. They can be as simple as something funny one of your children did or a kind gesture from a stranger at the grocery store. Any positive thoughts or actions count, no matter how small. Pam Grout the author of Thank and Grow Rich says this practice will change your life.
- Use gratitude cues. Cues are a great way to create a new habit of gratitude. I like to take a moment of gratitude before each meal. I also spend a few moments of gratitude while taking a shower. These are activities we do regularly and help us stay on course. You can also keep photos visible of things or people that make you happy. Post positive notes or inspirational quotes on the fridge or by your computer to reinforce feelings of gratitude.
- Notice and appreciate the good things. When something good happens notice it. Look for good things throughout your day and, appreciate them. Savor, absorb, and really pay attention to those good things.
- If you are feeling pain or anxiety don’t try and force yourself feel joy. Instead drop into the experience and feel gratitude for yourself for softening and being willing to notice what is happening in you with kindness and love.
Gratitude is incredibly powerful. Give it a try and see how your life changes.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones. I am grateful for you and this amazing community of people as we journey together finding ways to feel good and enjoy our wonderful life.