Whenever we think about losing weight and creating health in our lives, a deliberate practice of gratitude is usually not at the top of our action plan. In fact, with our national obsession about calories and exercise, the notion about being grateful as a weight loss strategy might even sound ridiculous. Besides, you might think you don’t have much to be grateful for, anyway – especially when it comes to your body. But investing a few minutes each day in simply indulging in warm feelings of appreciation will definitely pay off, and here’s why.
Complaining Leads To Falling off the Wagon
What we focus in on any one aspect of our lives, we can get consumed by that small part of ourselves. If you spend your day thinking about how unhealthy you are, how much you hate yourself and how deprived you feel by your current diet, then you will amplify those miserable feelings. Complaining will inevitably create even more circumstances to despise.
When that moment of temptation comes – and it always does – it will be harder to resist the afternoon candy bars and soda because, after all, you’re having a really tough day. You deserve a reward and what could be more welcome than a rich, sugary treat?
On the other hand, if you’ve deliberately noticed how many blessings are in your life right now, even before you’ve reached your perfect weight, you will feel less sorry for yourself and be more inclined to feel peaceful and happy. Feelings of serenity and quiet joy make it easier to enjoy a cup of herbal tea rather than succumb to high calorie sabotage.
Gratitude Creates Confidence
When you’re grateful, you feel more confident. How can you not feel more confident about yourself when you’re focused on all the wonders in your life?
One of the enemies of serious efforts to make changes in our bodies is a feeling of discouragement, especially when results slow down or we hit the dreaded “plateau” when nothing seems to be happening. There is always an initial weight loss – and there are sometimes circumstances where our body stops dropping weight so that it can adjust to new realities before resuming the weight loss.
This is an extremely dangerous time and it’s easy to say, “What’s the use?” and return to the habits that made us unhealthy. If embrace the process and feel grateful and confident on a daily basis it’s much easier to remain peaceful and to stick to our program.
A Grateful Person Is A Powerful Person
Gratitude helps us to feel empowered. When we notice how ‘right’ our life circumstances are, we feel more in control and less like a helpless victim.
Sometimes Life is Tough
When life is difficult, we may struggle to find things to be grateful for. But the truth is that our lives are so full of blessings, whether we notice them or not. Bottom line: ingratitude is a habit and any habit can be changed. Here’s a question to ask yourself:
“If I wanted to be grateful about something, what would it be?” Begin with the very body that you want so desperately to improve:
* If you wanted to, could you notice that you have a beautiful complexion?
* If you wanted to, could you be aware that you have very thick hair that many people would love to have?
* If you wanted to, could you be appreciative of your heart, your lungs, your liver, your kidneys and all the other organs that work so tirelessly to keep you alive?
* If you wanted to, could you be grateful for your hands that perform so many necessary tasks?
* If you wanted to, could you notice that you haven’t been sick in the last year?
* If you wanted to, could you be grateful for your excellent hearing or vision?
Concentrating on health for only five minutes every so often is not an effective way to make lasting changes in our well being. And similarly, a two minute “gratitude session” today is great, but if you stop there, you see the amazing mental transformation that can occur. Gratitude is like a muscle. It needs to be worked often and consistently to see the results! And there is nothing unpleasant about feeling grateful – in fact, it’s just the opposite. So let’s start our gratitude practice today. Here’s how:
- Say thanks. Send a thank-you text message or email to someone who did something nice for you recently. Or write a longer letter, detailing how their act of generosity benefited you. Better yet, tell them in person!
- Keep a gratitude journal. Every morning (or evening), write down three to five things you’re grateful for. They can be simple things, or big things — the key is that they’re different every day. Think: What was surprisingly fun, exciting, or laugh-out-loud funny? What made you feel good or proud or connected to someone else?
- Use visual cues. Use notes or objects that elicit feelings or reminders of gratitude and put them in different places so you see them throughout the day to help set your gratitude habit.
- See what you can do for someone else. Serving others without thoughts of reward can bring about feelings of gratitude within ourselves.
Check out some of the gratitude research:
- A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison …
- 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 (Emmons and McCullough, 2003) …
- Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions …
- Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life. They seem to be more empowered to deal with them effectively.
- Gratefulness is linked with optimism, which in turn is linked with better immune health, WebMD reported. For example, a University of Utah study showed that stressed-out law students who were optimistic had more immune-boosting blood cells than people who were pessimistic.
Gratitude is a choice. When we “Stop” and “Challenge” our circumstances next time, let’s “Choose” to exercise our gratitude muscle and see how this practice strengthens our ability to succeed!
By: Jan Paxman, RN