Certain times of the year it becomes trendy to practice gratitude….like Thanksgiving, the New Year or around milestone birthdays.
This rocks my world because practicing gratitude has power—especially when it comes to your health.
That may seem a bit crazy. Can something so simple really be life-changing?
Here’s the research.
Studies by the world-renowned gratitude researchers Emmons and McCullough suggest that people who practice gratitude and/or keep daily gratitude journals are more likely to:
- Feel more optimistic about their lives as a whole.
- Make more progress toward personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) than those who did not.
- Exercise more regularly and have fewer physical symptoms overall.
- Have higher levels of enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, energy, vitality, and optimism.
- Have lower levels of depression and stress.
- Acknowledge a belief in the interconnectedness of all life and felt a commitment to and responsibility toward others.
Let me bring that a little closer to home.
You’ve likely stumbled upon this blog because you have chronic health issues (like an autoimmune disease or two) that have left you feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and stuck.
You’ll do just about anything to feel better, have less symptoms, and enjoy your life again.
According to the research, just starting a gratitude practice can help you feel better.
However, let me be very clear. Gratitude won’t fix your health.
When you want to reverse the symptoms and progression of your autoimmune disease you need root cause medicine…not a gratitude practice.
Practicing gratitude won’t fix anything but it can directly influence how you feel. It can be one of the many tools in your toolbox as you step into a healthier life.
Not only does the research suggest the life-changing nature of a gratitude practice but I’ve seen it time and time again with my patients (and in my own life).
Just last week, I had a patient tell me:
“I didn’t see the importance in doing my daily gratitude practice. But I trusted you and committed to it. I’m really surprised my outlook and attitude has changed. I’m less anxious and my mood feels better. And, if I’m having a hard day, I go back and read through my journal and my outlook changes almost instantly. Thank you for recommending this to me.”
Practicing gratitude is an easy intervention. It doesn’t involve lots of preparation or time and it comes with virtually no negative side effects.
And, it takes less than 5 minutes a day. Here’s how to start.
Four things to consider when starting a gratitude practice:
- Write it down.
Write down 3-5 things that you are grateful for each day. Splurge and buy a journal you love or download an app on your phone. I have one patient who writes her daily gratitude on a 3×5 index cards and folds them up into a jar. At the end of the year she reads them all as part of her New Year’s Eve festivities.
Going a Step Further: If you’re struggling with autoimmune or chronic health issues, in addition to writing down the 3-5 things you are grateful for each day add the following:
My body is a blessing to me because __________________.
I’m proud of myself today because _______________________.
One way I was loving to myself today was ___________________.
I was a blessing to someone else today because ______________________.
- Do it daily.
Put your journal by your bedside table or somewhere you’ll look throughout the day. Or, enlist the help of technology. Set a daily reminder on your phone that asks you at the same time everyday “What are you grateful for today?” Repetition will turn your practice into a habit.
- Put a positive spin on negative things.
If something discouraging or negative happened look for the silver lining and express gratitude for it. For example, if you feel especially fatigued, write down in your journal, “I’m grateful I’m able to rest because that’s how my body heals itself.”
- Be a blessing or express gratitude to another person.
Being intentional about blessing another person daily is also a part of a gratitude practice. Sometimes opportunities easily arise (like paying for person’s coffee behind you in the drive through). Other times, you have to get more creative. Try sending a personalized handwritten note to a friend or send a quick email expressing your appreciation.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?
Do you have a gratitude practice? How has it changed your life?
I’d love to hear about your experience. Please leave a comment below.