Can Gratitude Make You Healthy?

I’m a self-help book junkie. If you were to scan my book shelf, you'd find everything from books on health, business, success, and faith. I’ve never been one to open a book that took me to a world of fantasy and fairytales. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with enjoying those stories, but I find my attention turning to books that leave me convicted, seeking truth about myself, and looking for ways to better my life. I guess my thought is, there’s always room for improvement, so why settle? Sitting down with a tea, and opening up a hard copy of one of these books makes me feel so accomplished. While there are many books that top the charts, there is one that'll forever stick out to me, as it helped change my perspective on life. The book is “One Thousand Gifts” written by author Ann Voskamp. Voskamp, a Christian woman and mother, teaches the reader how to find light and gratitude in even the most difficult circumstances in life. At first, I thought, no problem I’m grateful. However, I soon realized it was in the act of learning to give thanks, and practicing gratitude in the difficult moments, that things began to change. 

For the entire month of November that year, I wrote each thing I was grateful for. It wasn’t always something crazy and moving. In fact, as I look back in that journal, I gave thanks for slow mornings, homemade lattes, paleo pancakes, and the hardships God was pulling me through. As time passed, I began to find gratitude in even the smallest of things, my world became a bit brighter, and things that didn’t seem so glorious became brighter with each day. This idea really got me to thinking. If we all gave thanks, and found joy in the “little” things, would we be living a better life? A life that would be healthier just from having a grateful heart and positive outlook? 

Gratitude is defined as the quality of being grateful or thankful. An article written on WedMD says, “Throughout history, philosophers and religious leaders have extolled gratitude as a virtue integral to health and well-being. Now, through a recent movement called positive psychology, mental health professionals are taking a close look at how virtues such as gratitude can benefit our health. And they're reaping some promising results.” The article also talks about how gratitude can help with stress and even boost the immune system. Other studies show gratitude helps with sleep and even exercise. While I can’t say there are any studies that link gratitude to curing disease, some studies argue it can help keep your body and mind in a better state of health. As a health coach, I completely agree. I find those who sit with a positive mindset can take their healthy journey to a completely different level. In fact, this is often where the changes take place. Clients begin to see they are beautiful where they are in this moment, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, and doing nothing about the things that they are unhappy with. It’s the joy, happiness, and gratitude that can make this journey enjoyable and positive. 

I want to share a few things that I do to stay thankful, even in moments of life where I’m not sure where I’m headed. The truth is, we ALL have something to be grateful for. You may be reading this thinking, she has no idea how hard my life has been, or how can she understand the struggles that I am going through. You’re right, we all have different hardships that can make life “tough,” but if you can find gratitude in the breath you just took, the eyes you have been given to read this, and the freedom to live your life as you please, then you DO have something to be thankful for. It’s a choice that can change your life for the better. To not only offer yourself happiness, but possibly better health, within your mind and body. Here are a few of my favorite ways to stay GRATEFUL.

JOURNAL

Grab a spare journal and log little moments of gratitude and joy that you experience throughout the day. These “nuggets of joy” do not have to be monumental or extreme. These bits of joy can simply be like the things I mentioned above. Maybe it’s a sunrise, a freshly fallen snow, a cup of hot coco, or even a smile from a stranger. These are the gifts, that when we feel like there is nothing left, remind us of all the little and big things that we can be grateful for. 

GRATITUDE JAR

My husband and I have decided to keep a gratitude jar. We write out little moments that brought us joy that we are thankful for. On New Year’s Eve, we will sit down and open up the moments of gratitude. It’s these little moments that we tend to lose sight of, and forget that we were ever blessed with. What a gift to open this up at the end of the yearand reflect on the amazing things that took place, beyond a pay raise! 

PRAYER

By now, you all now I love me some Jesus! I’m not quiet about it, and yet I’m not pushy with it either (at least I hope not). I’m open about my faith with clients, friends, and you because it is one of the most important aspects of my life. It has made every bit of a difference in moments where I have felt lost, unspoken for, and even unsure of my purpose.  Through prayer, questions are answered, and God brings everything full circle. It isn’t always the answer I want, but it eventually leads me exactly where I want to be. Offering thanks to God is one of the most beautiful feelings you can bring to yourself. It’s recognizing that it’s because of HIM that you have been blessed with everything around you. 

GIVE THANKS

Looking someone in the eye and telling them how grateful you are is powerful. Whether it be for a gift, kind gesture, or simply for their support. It can mean the world to someone, who may feel like all that they do goes unnoticed. A smile, a moment to tell a stranger thank you for holding the door, or telling your spouse that you're grateful for all that they do. Showing gratitude and offering thanks can make someone feel loved and valued. Try it! 

So, can these habits of giving thanks and being grateful make you healthier? I think so! I believe a positive mind, leads to a positive body, which leads to a healthier lifestyle and outlook. Take note of this area of your life, ask yourself if you are grateful or filled with complaints. Either way, adding this to your plate is nothing but beneficial. Take it from me, gratitude can often be what’s missing from the positive life that's right in front of you! 

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