Experience gratitude for what you have right now and you uncover the hidden benefits of being grateful. #grateful?
This month is famous for a few things in America: Thanksgiving turkey, Black Friday shopping, and grateful challenges. The latter fills social media with hashtags about family and friends, about jobs that keep our bank accounts afloat, about good health and food to eat. It’s “in” to be grateful, especially this month of Thanksgiving, but did you know that being grateful actually has some hidden health benefits that make it more than just another thing to share on Facebook?
Get grateful! It only takes a few minutes.
Psychologists have published numerous studies on the subject of gratefulness. One had a group of people list just 5 things they were grateful for every day, another group was asked to list 5 complaints every day, and a third group served as a control by doing neither. Physical health symptoms, as well as emotional surveys, were completed before, during and after the experiment, and the results were telling. The group who listed complaints in their life reported more symptoms of pain, headache, frustration, and irritation with their life while the grateful group not only reported fewer symptoms than the complaint group, they even reported improvement in physical conditions they had before the study. There were even benefits that seem surprising: reports of less nausea, acne, and even coughing! Is it possible that the simple act of being truly grateful for what we have in life could affect our physical body so much, in so many ways?
The answer is yes.
Taking a few minutes out of every day to think about your blessings seems to release a flood of good hormones that work to lower blood pressure, increase dopamine sensitivity to help reduce pain and inflammation in the body, and strengthen the immune system so that you’re less susceptible to viruses and common illnesses. Psychologically, it all works together to boost positive emotions and make you feel more alert, alive and optimistic, and all of this, in turn, helps you feel more generous and giving with others, less lonely and more compassionate for others. That’s a staggering list of benefits for something with no negative side effects, that takes very little effort and time out of your day!
Even understanding how good it is for us, making gratefulness a habit can still easily slide to the back burner during the fast-paced frenzy of life. ( For more on this, check out some of our other blog posts: “The sun always shining somewhere” or “Why we always want to be somewhere else?” ) Here are a few easy ideas to help make gratefulness a new habit that is easy to keep!
Morning Wake Up Check In. This is my go-to grateful time and yoga stretch in one! Set the alarm for 10-15 minutes earlier than you need to be up, and grab a seat in another room or outside so you aren’t tempted to hop back in bed. Sit tall and stretch so that you can inhale deeply into your belly, and exhale slowly. Then, still breathing slowly and deliberately, start at the top of your head and work your way down. You can be as thorough or quick as you like, but the point is to notice different areas in your body, let go of any tension you may be holding there, and stretch it out. When I reach my toes I sit quietly for a moment and reflect, and grateful thoughts pour in through the quiet. Stretching and noticing my body makes me aware of how perfectly it all works together and supports me even when I am not paying attention. Having a moment of quiet before the chaos of day breaks gives me time to remember nice things from the day before or what I’m looking forward to coming up. By the time the kids wake up and the morning routine begins in earnest, I am rested, relaxed and optimistic about the day. My friends know I call this my “time release Xanax (no prescription needed).
Make a gratitude journal. This doesn’t have to be a daunting project! Grab a plain notebook, and every day take a few minutes to jot down a few things that you appreciated throughout your day. You can do this all at once or throughout the day, at morning to start the day or in the evening to wind down. Get elaborate with fancy bound journals and long odes to life (this would help writers get those creative juices flowing!) or go minimalist with a tiny memo pad you can keep with you. You can even go digital and keep track of them in your smartphone notes, digital journal or use an app like Happier (which has more tips on gratitude in life, work, finances and also includes articles about the science of being happy).
Make it a part of the discussion. We already know that eating dinner together is an important part of a healthy family life, so every night at dinner, ask the family to list something they are grateful for today, and take turns sharing. Not only does it get the conversation flowing, it’s setting a great example of gratitude to the younger generation and strengthening family ties at the same time! If you’re with friends, take the time to voice directly to them something you are grateful for about them: how you can count on them to be there for you, their goofy jokes, their sound advice…and make sure to ask them what they are feeling good about in their life, too.
Get creative with it! Feeling artistic? Paint isn’t just for grade schoolers. You don’t have to be a professional to paint up something that expresses your feelings, whether you’re a realist like Rockwell or an impressionist like Van Gogh. Does Bob Ross ever seem upset? Stream videos of him painting happy little trees for inspiration or meditation and channel some happy little trees of your own.
Pen a letter to someone important. Make your day as well as theirs! Who doesn’t love getting something other than bills and political ads? Write a letter to a friend, family member, or someone you admire to let them know you were thinking about them, and go ahead and tell them something about them that you are grateful for. Or get a little personal and write one to yourself, whether in the past, future or present. Tell your younger self how proud you are that they stayed in school, or listened to their (your) gut about that trip. Imagine where you’ll be in 10 or 20 years and tell your future self how great it is that you stuck it out when times got tough. Or take a minute and list things you’re digging about yourself and walk tall for the rest of the day.
Even the darkest night has the promise of a dawn around the corner, so create your own light by noticing that miracle in even the smallest of ways, and pretty soon you’ll be your own source of constant light, shining and bright.
We’ve all had hard times, times that seem unbearable, that the light at the end of the tunnel is dimmer than the smallest star in the sky and sometimes hidden completely from view. During those times, it can seem impossible to come up with even one thing to be grateful for, let alone a regular list. As impossible as it may seem, there’s always at least one thing to be grateful for: the possibilities that are present simply because you haven’t given up. Countless things in history had to happen exactly as they did for you to even be alive, here today, which means there’s a reason you’re here experiencing this thing called life even if you can’t see it from where you are right now.
At Gulf Breeze Recovery our guests undergo a transformational process that leads to a happier perception of how life is experienced.
However, few of our guests arrived on a winning streak, most felt broken, often hopeless. Many of our guests have been kind enough to give us their unscripted story of how they came to seek treatment and how they changed. Try watching their videos and not feel an identification with the gratitude they experience.
Unscripted Recovery Stories:
The following are just three of many unscripted and candid interviews about the transformation that takes place when our guests re-discover their own innate wisdom and resilience at our non 12 step holistic drug rehab.
Researchers Identify Role of Key Brain Signaling Protein in Alcohol Use Disorder
January 29, 2021
College Students Who Returned Home Due to Pandemic Drinking Less
January 29, 2021
Overdose Deaths Soar in the Midst of a Pandemic
January 27, 2021
Alcoholism Today in Seniors and Younger Generations
January 20, 2021
End Chronic Relapse and Start a New Life!
At Gulf Breeze Recovery we don’t want you to have just a great recovery, we want you to have a great life!