Sometimes it feels like there are a million things to fret about and very few reasons to be grateful. But set down that burden of worry for a minute and enjoy the little pick-me-ups around you this holiday season. Maintaining an attitude of gratitude does more than cheer up others, it keeps your body healthier inside and out. Now that’s something to be Thanksgiving thankful for.
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say studies on gratitude show its tremendous benefit. “Feeling thankful can improve sleep, mood, and immunity. Gratitude can decrease depression, anxiety, difficulties with chronic pain, and risk of disease,” they report. “If a pill could do this, everyone would be taking it.”
They suggest thinking of it that way to incorporate thankfulness into your routine. “Gratitude should be practiced daily—just as you’d take that magic pill if it existed. Try starting your day by thinking of someone you’re grateful for as soon as you wake up. It could be appreciating a friend who sends you funny texts, a teacher who recognizes your child’s gifts, or the barista who hands you your coffee and shares friendly conversation. Later, thank that person with a text, note, or kind word when you see the person.”
Doing this releases oxytocin which is known to help people connect; it’s even been called the love hormone. “Acknowledging gratitude and being mindful support a positive shift to improve your mental well-being and health.”
Make Being Thankful Part of Your Daily Routine – For Better Health
There’s no wrong way to establish gratitude into your life as a habit. UCLA Health explains that gratitude combats depression and anxiety, relieves stress, improves sleep, and even supports heart health. Their studies show “keeping a gratitude journal can cause a significant drop in diastolic blood pressure—the force your heart exerts between beats. Having grateful thoughts, even if you don’t write them down, also helps your heart by slowing and regulating your breathing to synchronize with your heartbeat.”
When you’re stressed, consider taking a minute to find something for which you’re thankful. This, say their experts, “causes physiological changes in your body that initiate the parasympathetic nervous system—the part of your nervous system that helps you rest and digest. Gratitude and the response it causes help bring down your blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing to help with overall relaxation.”
Tips for Acknowledging Your Gratitude
Taking time to pause and be grateful doesn’t come easily in times of stress, illness, injury, or fear. But like any habit, it can be learned through practice. The easiest way is with a journal. Whether kept on paper or digitally typed into your computer, tablet, or phone, it’s a quick, easy, zero-cost tool. Setting aside time allows your mind to focus on positive things and journaling can be done anywhere. Stuck in the school pick-up line? Waiting for your grocery order? Have a few minutes between work meetings? Find something or someone that brought a smile to your face and jot it down.
If guided help holds you accountable, join the Mayo Clinic’s Discover Gratitude program. This monthlong, self-paced opportunity gives guidance and encouragement when learning how to spot things to be grateful for and ways to say ‘thank you’ to people in your life, workplace, and community.
Bringing it Back Around
Gratitude combats stress but sometimes there are physical symptoms left behind, say researchers. Stress causes fight-or-flight hormones which can impact headaches, fatigue, muscle spasms, poor sleep, digestive problems, and decision-making.
Stressed out people often have poor posture, they explain, and poor spinal health. They also tend to exercise less and sit more, which impacts balance and mobility. Visiting a chiropractor like Dr. Chani Henderson of Family & Sports Chiropractic Clinic, is another way to help combat stress. And when those aches and pains are gone, trust me when I say you’ll definitely be grateful for her help!
Our bodies are an interworking system and so too is their recovery. Add in chiropractic care by making an appointment online or calling Dr. Henderson at 360.254.0400 today. Then write down a few ways you’ve been blessed by someone in your little corner of the world. It’ll be easier than you think and your aching back, neck, and shoulders will thank you.
And remember: gratitude is contagious. When someone gives you a compliment, praises your actions, or recognizes all you do for them it makes us want to pay it forward. Even a big smile to a stranger in the check-out line or laughing with another parent in the school parking lot is win/win.