Be Thankful for Gratitude
Alright, so this is an old one…
But it’s still true!
Be Thankful for Gratitude
Maybe you go around the Thanksgiving table and make everyone say something they are grateful for before you allow them to stuff their faces (I am thankful for stuffing and gravy… For the first three or four servings. Then I curse its existence). This is a good place to start, but perhaps you should include some gratitude practice a little more often if you want to benefit your health.
Gratitude has two parts. First, that there are good things in the universe. We tend to adapt quickly to any new emotion – so that new car, or new job, or new friend is only exciting and positive for a limited amount of time. Then we get used to it and don’t appreciate as much as we did initially. Gratitude recognizes these good things and keeps us engaged with them.
Second, gratitude acknowledges that these good things come from outside of ourselves. We have these good things not solely as a result of our own brilliance but at least partly through the actions of others. We accept our dependence on other people for some of the things in our lives that give us joy.
As you might imagine, people who have a more grateful attitude experience more positive emotions. They are more empathetic, less aggressive, more joyful, and experience less depression. Grateful people have more and closer relationships with other people.
What you may not expect is that grateful people also have lower blood pressure, stronger immune systems, better sleep, and less pain. Grateful people also take better care of themselves, are more likely to exercise and eat more nutritious meals.
I know what you’re thinking – people who have better stuff going on in their lives are happier and if you are happier you are going to have lower blood pressure etc. (or at least that’s what you should be thinking. Question everything!). But no relationship has been found between peoples’ income, employment, or history of trauma and their level of gratitude. I’m sure you can picture someone who has it all and can’t stop obsessing about what they still don’t have, as well as someone who seems to have nothing good going for them and still manages to find the silver lining. In fact, having a grateful attitude is one indicator of resilience. That is, when something really horrible happens to you, you will be more likely to get over it and move on if you have a grateful attitude.
And something to be really grateful for? You can learn to be more grateful! And all you need to do is practice. In several studies participants were divided into two groups. One group was simply told about the benefits of gratitude, the other group was given gratitude journals in which they recorded things they were grateful about each day. After six weeks, the group using the journals saw significant increases in positive emotions as well as decreases in pain and inflammation.
I’m going to start practicing right now.
I am grateful for my new neighborhood (four years back in Oak Park!) filled with interesting, kind, generous people who keep inviting me to block party stuff even though I never go. Because someday I might.
I am thankful for my family, near and far, who are always there for me even when I am being annoying and unreasonable. Especially when I am be annoying and unreasonable.
And I am thankful for my job and all the people who make it possible. I am thankful for my incredible boss who encouraged me to begin my career in fitness and helped me train and prepare even though I was just a science nerd with absolutely no experience in athletics (always picked last in gym!) And I am particularly grateful for all of my clients and class participants who let me boss them around all day. Seriously, ask my siblings, it’s my dream job…..
Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you!