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With Thanksgiving around the corner, many of us will take a moment in the midst of our personal chaos to consider the people and things in their lives they are grateful for.  We can all agree this is a beneficial practice.  How could consistent gratitude could change your life?

Gratitude is simply an expression of your appreciation for a person, a circumstance, an event, or an object in your life.  Gratitude comes easily to some of us, while some of us have to make a concerted effort to express it.  Whatever camp you fall into, there are clear benefits to taking a few minutes each day to express your gratitude:

  • Increased Happiness and Decreased Depression
  • Stronger Relationships
  • Decreased Stress and Anxiety
  • Better Sleep and Physical Health
  • Increased Self-Care

Decreased Depression and Increased Happiness:

A recent analysis of over 50 studies developed some key points related to gratitude and its effect on the psyche; in particular, that gratitude increases social and emotional well-being.  This is a sustainable form of happiness, one that is not rooted in instant gratification, but is rather a frame of mind.

Stronger Relationships:

How many of us have experienced the type of complacency that “being comfortable” produces in a relationship?  This may result from a set of pre-defined roles that simply become expectations of each other.  When we take for granted what our partner, friend or family member does for us, we are unlikely to take the time to express our appreciation.  But doing so is essential to the bond between two people by fostering intimacy and trust.  In a marriage, it may increase satisfaction and even decrease the likelihood of divorce.

Decreased Stress and Anxiety:

Cortisol, the infamous fight-or-flight hormone, is useful in emergency situations.  But a consistently high level of Cortisol leads to chronic inflammation, poor sleep, poor digestion, and overall feelings of dissatisfaction. Fortunately, a gratitude practice can lower Cortisol levels in the body. Consistent gratitude can even lead you to be more forgiving to yourself, resulting in fewer depression and anxiety symptoms.

Better Sleep and Physical Health:

People with gratitude tend to have more positive thoughts upon going to sleep, which may be the reason gratitude helps you sleep better and longer.  This suggests that a daily gratitude practice may be most beneficial before you go to sleep.  In addition, the practice of gratitude lowers blood pressure, is associated with improved cholesterol levels, lowers creatinine and C-reactive protein, and improves immune function.

Increased Self-Care:

Gratitude seems to promote self-care by being self-care.  It also leads to better nutrition habits, exercise practices, and less likelihood to smoke.  The practice of gratitude motivates us to look for outside opportunities for generosity and kindness, which have the effect of improving not only our own lives, but also those of the people we interact with.  This fosters a more meaningful connection to those we meet.

So now you might be thinking to yourself, this has been a MONTH.  A year in fact!  How could it possibly hurt to take a few minutes to really think about the blessings that have been bestowed upon you?  But perhaps this is a foreign practice to you and you’re not really sure where to start. The staff at Body in Harmony has a few ideas for you!

  • Gratitude Journaling:
    • You can design this however it best suits you. You might write a whole page about something great that has happened for you today.  Or you might try the “Daily 3”, where each day you list three things you are grateful for, such as:
      • I am grateful we have food to eat
      • I am grateful my knee is feeling better today
      • I am grateful for my husband
    • You may even like to post your Daily 3 on your social media! This may inspire others to do the same.
  • Thinking About Someone You are Grateful For:
    • Each morning perhaps, you may pick a specific person in your life to think about. You might highlight how that person has impacted you or changed your life for the better.
  • A Sincere “Thank You”:
    • Follow up your grateful thoughts with a Thank You, either in person, or in a note. An unexpected letter thanking a person for something they have done for you is always welcome and will serve to deepen your relationship with them.
  • A Letter of Gratitude:
    • Tell someone you care about the many reasons you are grateful to have them in your life. Consider making this a regular practice, such as once weekly or monthly.
  • Prayers of Gratitude:
    • It’s not a coincidence that nearly every faith tradition places an important emphasis on gratitude. In addition, most faiths encourage you to give thanks even in the midst of struggle.  Start your prayer time by giving thanks not just for the blessings in your life, but also the trials, which serve to grow your faith and make you a stronger person.
  • Meditate with Gratitude:
    • You can pick a person, an event, a circumstance; whatever speaks to you that day, to meditate on.

Gratitude is a powerful force in our lives and may be the most under-used way to increase your level of happiness and satisfaction.  It costs nothing and only takes a few moments each day.  The benefits are far-reaching, and we encourage you to try it today!

Body in Harmony, PC is grateful for all of our patients, referral sources, vendors and loved ones and we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.

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