As we descend upon the year and embark (& hopefully embrace) the upcoming Holidays, I’d like to share a few things that I’ve learned about the impact of gratitude. Specifically, how gratitude positively affects our health.
We have much to be grateful for if we pause for a minute and think about the good things that are infinitely flowing into our lives. With the year we’ve just had, I truly believe that the simple act of written or verbal (or internally spoken) expression of gratitude has the power to not only shift our mood within seconds but it can change our lives as we move forward into the future. Like a beautiful ripple effect on a lake or pond.
Gratitude is a practice. Like exercise, eating healthy, becoming organized, it takes continual effort for you to experience the long term positive effects. Complaining is easy. Gratitude takes an endeavor.
I have to work at it all the time and honestly this past year has not only tested my patience and my ability to adapt to changes, it has fervently compelled me to practice more gratitude.
A perfect example was just last night at my gym class. Yes, my gym is still “open” – outside anyways! I was reluctant to attend but since I’d already paid for the month, I decided to give this modified gym version a shot. This was a strength training weights class and not only is it challenging and empowering, I really look forward to it every week!
Feeling slightly annoyed and inconvenienced at yet another 2020 change, I walked outside onto the tennis courts to find several massively huge tents set up with lots of people with masks exercising within them. I walked through the weight and cardio machines “room” and headed over to find my fellow group exercise classmates in another tent.
I found a spot that was already set up and I began the workout with the others led by the instructor whom I adore. A few minutes into the workout, something amazing happened. Besides the endorphins (“feel good” peptide hormones) kicking in, I started to feel this awesome sense of gratitude. As I looked around the tent, I observed many things.
The gym was still open and super committed to providing exercise options to its members. Yay!
The gym made tenacious, time consuming adaptations to deliver and set up tents outside on tennis court along with countless pieces of exercise equipment to offer as much variety as possible.
The instructor showed up on a cool fall evening – happy and motivating as ever – to get our hearts pumping and our muscles stronger.
The other classmates also showed up and were eagerly committed to completing this tough workout.
The temperature was completely tolerable – it wasn’t that cold, no snow, no rain, a mild 50 something degrees for a comfortable California fall evening. (Maybe I should revisit this statement in December?)
A new music playlist (from the 80’s) that the instructor created was super fun, entertaining and nostalgic!
And most importantly, everyone thanked the instructor at the end of the workout for her time, effort and positive attitude. They were grateful! And so was I. I left the gym feeling really positive. 🙂
This gratitude experience was also an excellent reminder that any event in a community (or team, family, friendship, work, spiritual/religious environment, etc.) not only creates a feeling of support, collaboration and connection, it provides a sense of belonging that is crucial for the human body, mind and spirit.
Speaking of…So what are the health benefits of practicing gratitude?
Our emotional and psychological well-being is higher and more stable – we are happier, more positive, more optimistic, more calm.
This also translates to lessened bouts of depression, anxiety, stress, fear, worry, envy, anger and irritability.
Our relationships with others in all areas of our lives are more stable, happier, healthier, harmonious and less guarded or defensive. (This works even better both ways!)
Our resilience is stronger – “a get up and try it again or try something new” approach.
We are more generous with our time, effort, knowledge, experience and money and less self focused.
Our work life, careers, jobs are happier, more secure, more successful, accomplished and prosperous. And we are a better version of ourselves as employees, managers, colleagues, business owners and other influential leaders.
Our body produces more serotonin, less cortisol, we feel more relaxed and our sleep is more restful. And better sleep means a happier mood the next day.
Our cardiovascular health is stronger: lowered blood pressure, normal heart rate and less stressed heart muscles.