How Gratitude Makes Us Healthy
To prepare for the new year, this week’s topic is gratitude. When we show gratitude, it does several things in the body. We know it affects our mental health by making us happier. Experiencing gratitude, whether we share it out loud or not, can improve our relationships. It can even fight depression and suicidal thoughts.
When we express gratitude, those happy thoughts actually have an effect on our bodies as well. In one study, people who were considered more grateful reported fewer health problems and fewer physical symptoms. There have been several studies done where people practiced gratefulness, like keeping a gratitude journal or writing down what they are grateful for. These same people reported far fewer physical symptoms and better physical health. They reported fewer headaches, fewer gastrointestinal problems, and fewer aches and pains. One study compared one group that wrote things they were grateful for and one group that wrote down their daily hassles. The second group reported feelings of nausea, headaches, sore muscles, and shortness of breath - none of which were reported by the first group.
Practicing gratitude can be super easy. One of the easiest ways is a gratitude journal. It can be pocket-sized - one where you just write down a line a day. My favorite is a gratitude jar. Each night before I go to bed I write down something that day I was grateful for and throw it in the jar. This can be anything from your favorite barista making the best cappuccino to date, to nearly missing a puddle that would have wrecked your outfit before an important meeting, to seeing the smile on your children’s faces when you showed up early from work.
Anything goes when we practice gratitude. Whenever you’re feeling down, just open up your gratitude journal or start dipping into your jar. I guarantee a smile will creep over your face and you will start to feel warm fuzzies inside.
My absolute most favorite thing is as soon as we show gratitude towards something or someone, we will begin to see those same qualities or things show up all over the place. It’s a great thing to experiment with if you want more of something. For instance, if you want more money, instead of saying “I want more money” say “I’m so grateful this $20 bill just showed up in my coat pocket” or “I am so grateful I get a paycheck every other week and I always have money in my account”. The same thing goes for more time. Once you start showing gratitude for the little bits of time you get throughout the day, no matter how small, you will start to notice more and more small bits of time showing up out of nowhere. Or another example - as soon as I notice one super cute guy or girl in a place, all of a sudden I start to notice more. It’s awesome. It’s because I say “ooh, I have eye candy!” rather than “ugh, there’s only one good looking guy in this place”. If I say the latter, my brain just reinforces the latter so no one else can even look cute to me. That’s the awesomeness of synchronicities.
This week, I want you to practice gratitude every single day when you are out and about. This is a mental shift that will help pull you out of any negative cycles that are oh, so easy to fall into. Grab a single piece of paper (and a jar, or a journal) and write down one thing each day you are grateful for. You can do this first thing in the morning and even project what you WILL be grateful for that day, or you can do it in the middle or at the end of the day for something that already took place. It doesn’t matter what you write, as long as it gives you warm fuzzies inside.
If you can practice this much gratitude before the new year comes, think of all you will have show up for you in 2020! Here’s to a healthy body and happy thoughts. Happy New Year!