Gratitude is a common theme throughout the holiday season. As we shop for gifts, and make generous donations of our time and money to those in need, it’s important to also make space for the things which we are most thankful… Gratitude for the laughter and love of a good support network; for things like the comfort of a warm home and food to eat; and for our health so that we may enjoy all of life’s gifts!
An attitude of gratitude can go a long way in creating health in our lives. The notion might sound ridiculous, especially when it comes to your body and weight loss in particular; but investing a few minutes each day to simply indulge warm feelings of appreciation for who you are will definitely pay off, and here’s why:
Complaining Leads to Falling off the Wagon
What we focus in on any one aspect of our lives, we can become consumed by. For instance, if you spend your day ruminating on how unhealthy you are, how much you hate yourself, or how deprived you feel by your current diet, then you will amplify those miserable feelings. Complaining will inevitably create more circumstances to despise. And when that moment of temptation comes — and it always does — it will be even harder to resist. Suddenly the afternoon candy bar and soda become a comfort, because, after all, you’re having a really tough day and you deserve a reward. What could be more welcome than a rich, sugary treat?
On the other hand, if you’ve deliberately noticed how many blessings are in your life right now — even before you’ve reached your perfect weight — you will feel less sorry for yourself, and therefore more empowered, and more inclined to feel peaceful and happy. Feelings of serenity and quiet joy make it easier to enjoy a cup of herbal tea rather than succumb to high calorie sabotage.
Gratitude Creates Confidence
When you’re grateful, you feel more confident. How can you not feel more confident about yourself when you’re focused on all the wonders in your life?
One of our enemies when it comes to the serious effort we make toward improving our bodies, is discouragement, especially when results have slowed down, or we hit the dreaded “plateau” when nothing seems to be happening at all. There is always an initial weight loss but there are sometimes circumstances where our body stops dropping weight so that it can adjust to new realities before resuming the weight loss. This is an extremely dangerous time when it’s easy to say, “What’s the use?” and return to unhealthy habits. If during these times you choose to embrace the process and feel grateful and confident on a daily basis, it’s much easier to remain peaceful and stick to your healthy habits.
A Grateful Person is a Powerful Person
Gratitude helps us to feel empowered. When we are able to appreciate our life circumstances and to see the lessons or the silver linings, we feel more in control of our lives and less like a helpless victim. Of course, when life is difficult we may struggle to find things to be grateful for, but the truth is that our lives are so full of blessings, whether we notice them or not. Bottom line: ingratitude is a habit and any habit can be changed. Here are some questions to ask yourself: “If I wanted to be grateful about something, what would it be?” Try beginning with the very body you want so desperately to improve. Notice how to feels to hold and embody that emotion of gratitude, and wait for the next positive emotion to arise. Maybe you notice the next thing you’re grateful for…and the next thing…and the next. These can be as simple as gratitude for five minutes to myself, gratitude for my hands that perform so many necessary tasks and the legs that carry me, gratitude for a good night’s sleep, and the list goes on!
In order to make effective, lasting changes in our well being, we must make a deliberate habit of thinking this way. Concentrating on health for only a few minutes every so often is not enough. Similarly, a two minute “gratitude session” today is great, but if you stop there, you won’t see the amazing mental transformation that can occur. Gratitude is like a muscle. It needs to be worked often and consistently to see the results. And there is nothing unpleasant about feeling grateful — in fact, it’s just the opposite! So let’s start our gratitude practice today. Here’s how:
Say thanks. Send a thank-you text message or email to someone who did something nice for you recently. Or, write a longer letter detailing how their act of generosity benefited you. Better yet, tell them in person!
Keep a gratitude journal. Every morning (or evening), write down three to five things you’re grateful for. They can be simple things or big things — the key is that they’re different every day. Think: What was surprisingly fun, exciting, or laugh-out-loud funny? What made you feel good or proud or connected to someone else?
Use visual cues. Use notes or objects that elicit feelings or reminders of gratitude and put them in different places so you see them throughout the day to help set your gratitude habit.
See what you can do for someone else. Serving others without thoughts of reward can bring about feelings of gratitude within ourselves.
Check out some of the gratitude research:
In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons and McCullough, 2003).
Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, and optimism; and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life. They seem to be more empowered to deal with them effectively.
Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal, and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.
Gratitude is a choice. When we “Stop” and “Challenge” our circumstances next time, let’s “Choose” to exercise our gratitude muscle and see how this practice strengthens our ability to succeed!