If you know anything about the placebo effect, then you understand how powerful the connection is between mind and body. What the mind believes, the body experiences. We can use this understanding to help ourselves feel better on a psychological, emotional, and physical level. That’s why I want to focus on gratitude.
Gratitude is an incredibly powerful weapon of good. By growing gratitude in our lives, we can increase our happiness and even possibly protect our health. If you believe in the power of your own mind, then nourish your body by inviting gratitude into your life.
Can a Little Gratitude Make You Healthier and Happier?
I have always been fascinated with the mind-body connection. For a long time now, researchers have known that cultivating a positive attitude can impact our health for the better. In fact, happiness is actually correlated with living longer!
At this moment in time, it can be hard to see the glass as half full or to “think happy thoughts,” but that is exactly why we must do so! Now more than ever, we need to protect our psychological, emotional, and physical health. This is especially true for anyone suffering from Hashimoto’s disease. Our psychological and emotional health is intricately connected to our autoimmune disorder, and stress is a big trigger for our symptoms.
So, my lovely ThryoSisters, let’s get a little happier and a little healthier with a secret psychological weapon: Gratitude.
What Is Gratitude?
Gratitude is far more than just saying “Thank you,” after someone holds a door for you. It is a deep feeling of appreciation for others or even a higher power. You can feel grateful for an act of kindness, for the love of a partner or family member, for the beauty of nature, or even a hardship that taught you a valuable lesson.
Personally, I love this explanation of gratitude from Harvard Medical School:
“Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals…”
The Power of Gratitude
I don’t know about you, but when I focus on gratitude, I feel like a better version of myself. In delving into the topic of gratitude for this article, I came across the research of Dr. Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading experts on gratitude. His findings and theories help explain why gratitude lifts me up.
According to Dr. Emmons, two key components form gratitude. The first component is an affirmation of goodness. Dr. Emmons explains, “We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.” The second key is acknowledging that the goodness is outside of ourselves. “We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”
Wow. That is so beautiful. The power of gratitude is that it can shift our entire perspective and allow us to see all the positive influences that have affected our lives. It also introduces humility into our lives and allows us to set aside our own ego to recognize how our successes and achievements are often influenced by others.
Emmons teaches that gratitude gives us four amazing gifts. It:
- Allows us to celebrate the present
- Blocks toxic emotions, like envy, resentment, and regret
- Helps us become more stress-resilient (a huge benefit for those with Hashimoto’s)
- Strengthens our social ties and feelings of self-worth
As if that wasn’t enough, gratitude can also improve our mental health. (I feel like one of those infomercial hosts. But wait, there’s more!)
The Psychological Benefits of Gratitude
Does practicing gratitude actually make you happier? Unsurprisingly, our friend, Dr. Robert Emmons, thinks the answer is yes, and he has the research to prove it.
Dr. Emmons teamed up with another well-known gratitude researcher, Dr. Michael McCullough, to perform a gratitude study. The two men divided participants into three groups. The first group was asked to write down the things they were grateful for that had occurred each week. The second group was tasked with listing daily irritations or frustrations for the week. The third group wrote about what had affected them during the week, whether positive or negative.
At the end of 10 weeks, the first group who had been asked to focus on instances of gratitude felt more optimistic generally and felt better about their lives. One of the surprising things about the study was that members of this group also went to the doctors less often than people in the group who were asked to write about their grievances.
Based on his research, Dr. Emmons suggests that gratitude can promote:
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More joy and pleasure
- More optimism and happiness
- Higher levels of alertness and greater feelings of being alive and awake
Why? As Dr. Emmons found, it’s nearly impossible to feel toxic emotions, like envy and resentment, when you focus on gratitude and all the gifts you’ve been given in your life.
The Physical Benefits of Gratitude
Healthy mind, healthy body? While happy thoughts can’t wipe out disease or eliminate an autoimmune disorder, a happy brain can have positive effects on the body. As Karolina Zaremba, CNP, writes for Fullscript.com, a positive attitude “may reduce the activation of certain pathways that directly impact health, such as nervous system, immune, and inflammatory pathways.” Furthermore, having a happy mindset “has been associated with a greater likelihood of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This process has been called the ‘upward spiral theory of lifestyle change.’”
Give me some of that upward spiral. In her fascinating article, titled “What Does Happy Mean? Health Effects and Tips for a Positive Mood,” Zaremba cites numerous studies that find happy people have improved cognition, lower cortisol levels, better immune function, and even better medical treatment outcomes.
In a nutshell, being happier can also make you healthier, and practicing gratitude is a key way to maintain a positive outlook on life.
How to Invite Gratitude into Your Life
Have I been able to convince you to grow more gratitude in your soul, or at least to give this gratitude thing a try? Excellent. There are many, many ways to cultivate gratitude in your life, and most of these practices don’t have to take long or cost a thing.
Start a Gratitude Journal
Dr. Emmons suggests keeping a gratitude journal. That can be as simple as writing down all the things that you are grateful for that happened to you each day or even just each week.
Write a Gratitude List
If you want to simplify things even more, write a list of five things that you are grateful for before bed each night or in the morning as soon as you wake up. The act of writing will help ground the activity, but you can also list your five things in your head. The things on your list can change from day to day. They can be people you are grateful for, relationships you are grateful for, opportunities, blessings, or just points of beauty that you were able to witness.
Write Gratitude Letters
Another gratefulness practice I love is to write a letter of gratitude. The brilliance of this practice is that by sending this letter, you get to share your gratitude with someone else. Not much of a writer? Then call someone or express your gratitude in person. It might feel awkward at first, but I can tell you that expressing gratitude warms the soul.
Mindfulness and Meditation
You can also add gratitude to your mindfulness, meditation, or yoga training. Put the idea of gratitude in your heart before you start your training and watch how that seed grows as you let your heart and soul nourish it.
Gratitude for Life’s Challenges
Finally, I want to share one amazing anecdote I came across in my gratitude research. In his article for Greater Good Magazine, Dr. Emmons wrote that “Mother Theresa talked about how grateful she was to the people she was helping, the sick and dying in the slums of Calcutta because they enabled her to grown and deepen her spirituality.”
Truly amazing! Think outside the box. Even the challenges in your life or out in the world offer opportunities for gratitude by teaching us important lessons or guiding us to find our true purpose in life.
In the spirit of this article, I want to sign off by telling you all how grateful I am for the opportunity to share my thoughts and knowledge with you. I hope that this article will help you grow gratitude in your life and enjoy a more peaceful and empowered journey to your purpose. If you are interested in receiving more information to assist you on your healing path, please sign up for my newsletter.