Sunday, November 20, 2016

Experience Health through Gratitude

Health is more than just a yearly check up or taking vitamin. The book I co-authored, 101 Great Way to Improve Your Health, proves that health is multi-faceted. The last excerpt from the book was about forgiveness. This excerpt is about another daily activity that takes no physical activity, but could make a huge impact on your overall health.

Creating Better Health from the Inside Out with Gratitude
Katherine Scherer and Eileen Bodoh
Most of us become anxious when we are not feeling well. Our stability and security are threatened, and we become fearful. “What if I have to take off from work again?” or “How will I manage if I get sick?” are questions we may ask ourselves while feeling our anxiety build. Whether we are dealing with a serious illness or just an off day, it is important to eliminate stress as much as possible. A good way to do this is to tune in to gratitude. Gratitude, like other positive emotions, has an undeniable positive effect on our health and well-being.

“A distinguished emotions researcher recently commented that if a prize were given for the emotion most neglected by psychologists, gratitude would surely be among the contenders,” says Emmons of the University of California at Davis, a psychologist and leading figure in the new field of gratitude research.1 Along with Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, he edited the recently published book The Psychology of Gratitude. They report that grateful people are more optimistic, more satisfied with life, and have higher levels of vitality and lower levels of depression and stress. Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress. In “Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness,” they found that “in a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.”2 It’s no secret that stress can make us sick, and it has even been suggested that it can kill. Stress has been linked to heart disease and cancer, and 90 percent of all doctor visits include some form of stress-related illness. Researchers in the field

Better Health through Self Improvement of positive psychology are finding that positive emotions are far more important to mental health and physical well-being than scientists had ever realized.
When we are experiencing illness and discomfort, we do what we believe will help in our healing. We follow our doctors’ advice, take the prescribed medications, eat well, get plenty of rest, and try other nontraditional alternatives that promise to promote good health. But have we ever considered how important our thoughts are?

Keeping our thoughts as positive as possible is critical because, generally, our thoughts precede our feelings. Positive emotions come from positive thoughts. When we think about what we are grateful for and it is something we truly value, we feel the positive emotion of gratitude. A mother may think of her newborn baby and feel gratitude; a father who has just been promoted at work may feel grateful for new opportunities; a child who gets exactly what she wanted for her birthday may feel gratitude.

Choosing to focus on the blessings in life and being grateful for them will help us stay positive. This doesn’t mean that we won’t ever have negative thoughts to deal with, but choosing to lift our thoughts higher with gratitude will help remove us from our victim status and empower us. Making the practice of gratitude a habit, even before we are under the weather, will help us stay well and get well sooner when we become ill.
There are always good reasons to be thankful, even if we don’t feel like it. At first, we may have to fake it until we make it. By deciding to say thank you enough, we may even find troublesome thoughts occurring less often for an added benefit. Gratitude is an antidote for depression.

There are many simple and enjoyable ways to practice gratitude. Waking up to gratitude by immediately giving thanks before we throw off the covers is a great way. This action alone can set the tone for the entire day. Another way is to begin a gratitude journal. Keeping a gratitude journal is as easy as starting a notebook in which we write down five things a day that we are grateful for. It helps us achieve a grateful state of mind. It shifts our focus away from what we don’t have to what we do have. It takes us from negative thinking to positive thinking in an instant, and we may be surprised at how much we find to be grateful for. According to Emmons and McCullough, “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.”3

When we stop for a moment, look at our surroundings, and focus on our gifts, we realize how much we have to be grateful for. The gifts of hearing, sight, and clear thinking are invaluable, yet we often take them for granted. Family members and friends, nature and its beauty, and positive actions that improve our world are good examples of things to be grateful for. Other examples include getting a clean bill of health from your doctor, finding the theater tickets you thought you had lost, arriving safely at your destination after a bumpy plane ride, finding shelter in a sudden downpour, smelling the sweetness of apple blossoms in the air, and having a shoulder to cry on. The list of things we have to be grateful for is endless, and the more we are grateful for, the more we will notice how much we have to be grateful for.
Because we have a natural tendency to focus on the negative, it is important to make a conscious effort to stay positive, and cultivating gratitude is one way to do this. The practice of gratitude has the power to turn our focus from our logical minds to the positive feelings we carry in our hearts. Why not practice gratitude until it becomes a habit?
  • Make a commitment to be grateful every day.

  • Find at least one person to say thank you to every day.
  • Give thanks and praise for your loved ones every day.
  • Send thank you notes more often.
  • See the beauty in nature and be grateful for it.
  • Look for the good in everything.
  • Find a gratitude partner and share positive moments of gratitude. 
  • Take great care of yourself and choose to be grateful for all the gifts in your life.

  1. _____________________________________
  2. About the Authors
    Katherine Scherer and Eileen Bodoh are the authors of Gratitude Works: Open Your Heart to Love, an inspirational book that helps readers access the healing power of gratitude, and the e-books Gratitude Works Journal and Gratitude Works Prayer Book. Their mission is to touch lives with the spirit of gratitude. Katherine’s and Eileen’s diverse backgrounds include owning and operating a business, chairing nonprofit community groups, facilitating self-improvement groups, developing a holistic health conference, hospice training, and training in parent education. Their writing appears in publications and Web sites in the United States and Canada. Visit 
Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, eds., The Psychology of Gratitude (New York: Oxford University Press), 3.Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, “Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness” (working paper). Ibid.

You can purchase 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health online as an ebook or paperback.

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