Would you believe it if I told you there is a simple exercise that could help you improve your overall sense of well being?
And that this exercise could help you feel less depressed and less fatigued? And what if I told you that people who practice this exercise have less aches/pains and sleep better?
You won’t need any special equipment or training to do this exercise. Anyone, young or old, can do it anywhere, and at any time.
This exercise can be done alone but it would be a great exercise to do with your kids, or even with your coworkers….it can even be done while driving or eating….
Sounds amazing, Right!?!
So what is this amazing exercise?….
It’s the practice of gratitude!
What is Gratitude?
So, that’s a good question. To be honest, I can’t actually define gratitude even though- instinctually- I know what it is.
Some may think of it as an emotion, mood, or maybe a virtue or behavior. You may even think of it as a character trait.
The best definition I came across was from gratitude researchers, Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, who describe gratitude as
“Recognition that one has obtained a positive outcome and the recognition that this came from an external source”.
With this definition, gratitude can be described as an “others-oriented” emotion.
Another good question is, Where does gratitude come from?
Is it something we are taught as children or apart of our cultural upbringing? And are humans the only species to feel or exhibit gratitude?
Research suggests some animals may have “reciprocal altruism” helping out each other for the good of the species. (Allen, 2018) One study with chimpanzees, found that a chimp was more likely to share food with another chimp that had helped with grooming earlier in the day. I’m guessing that’s how chimps who don’t know sign language say “Hey, thanks for the help, Chimp!”:)
Benefits of Gratitude
As a lipid specialist, I work with many patients who have heart disease and are at risk of heart failure. So, I was very grateful to find a study in patients with Stage B Heart Failure, gratitude was associated with better sleep, less depressed mood and less fatigue. Gratitude was also associated with seeking out health behaviors to maintain their heart function.
But that’s not all. What was really amazing is they found that gratitude was associated with lower levels inflammation in the blood. The reason why this is so significant is that inflammation can make heart failure worse leading to more debilitating symptoms leading to a hospitalization.
And to be honest not having symptoms like being short of breath or having fluid retention and going to the hospital is some thing to be grateful for in and of itself. I am hoping more research like this can help our patients who suffer from heart failure.
So what are some of the other benefits of being grateful? In addition to the physical benefits of gratitude like better sleep, being grateful can also help with better moods, psychological well being and social relationships. Of course we know saying “thank you” is just good manners but showing appreciation can help build relationships. Grateful people tend to be more sensitive and empathetic to others. Gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression and can even improve self esteem.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life….It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it turns problems into gifts, failure into success and mistakes into important events.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.Melodie Beattie
How to do a gratitude exercise.
The truth is, we have so much to be thankful for. We just need to take the time to think about it.
I perform gratitude exercise as a part of my morning routine and try to do a second “exercise” before falling asleep at night. The exercise is simple. Think about someone or something for which you are thankful and grateful. For instance, has anything happened in the last 24-48 hours that you appreciated?
As I think about what I’m grateful for, it helps to focus on the positive feelings or emotions linked with the act or object that made me feel grateful, like remembering how I laughed with my sister on a recent phone call re-living some childhood memories. Or I may bring to mind how nice it felt to come to work to find a cup of my favorite coffee waiting for me at my work station. ( Thank you, Yaxza)
You may want to get a journal and write down what your thankful for or if your into tech, you guessed it, there are apps for that.
So, to help you start, you can say……
I’m so grateful and thankful for……
…Now, you take it from here…