Food has become the enemy for many of us. We think about the all the “bad” foods we “shouldn’t” be eating much more than the “good” foods we “should” be” eating. This whole eating thing has become a minute-by-minute obsession!
We worry about eating too much for dinner, we feel guilty when we consume chocolate, ice cream or chips, we hear the critical “should” and “should not” voice come from our heads as we look at the menu at our favorite restaurant.
All this negative energy and emotion contributes to our stress levels and impacts our choices.
When we are feeling upset, angry, anxious, sad, frustrated or generally unhappy, we are more apt to engage in emotional eating behaviors, stress eating or eating for comfort. And then what happens? We experience those feelings of guilt, shame and worry.
Do you know what this type of stress does to our bodies?
As we become more stressed or anxious, the adrenal hormone cortisol is released as part of the fight, flight or freeze mechanism. It actually signals the body to hold onto body weight as a protection mechanism…and can increase appetite!
So how the heck can saying Thank You help with all this?
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Researchers have shown that the regular practice of gratitude will come with many health improvements:
- Reduction in Stress and Aggression
- Reduces the stress hormone cortisol
- Experience more sensitivity and empathy toward others
- Improvements in Self-Esteem
- Reduces the tendency to make social comparisons (which leads to decreased self-esteem)
- Better Sleep
- Writing in a gratitude journal before bed may help you sleep better and longer
- Improved Relationships and Connection with others
- Feeling appreciated by your partner deepens connection (important in feelings of belonging)
- Increased Happiness
- Study by Robert Emmons showed subjects that wrote down one thing they were thankful for everyday for 3 weeks experienced 25% increase in happiness over the next 6 months
Actually, when we feel grateful we tend to focus more on what is right in ourselves and in our lives instead of what is wrong or missing. It also helps build appreciation in our body, and when that happens, we also tend to make healthier choices.
So now what? Try to find a gratitude practice that is right for you.
8 Ideas for Establishing a Regular Gratitude Practice
Here are some suggestions…
1. Start a gratitude journal.
Write things that you are grateful for, in list style, paragraphs, stories, charts, phrases…
2. Write a thank you letter to someone who positively impacted your life.
A friend, a mentor, a coach, a teacher, a neighbor, a girl scout leader, a bus driver, a boss, a coworker, a distant cousin, a fictional movie character. This is something that can be sent or not…it is the act of writing it that counts.
3. Visit someone who is or has been special in your life to say “thank you” in person.
This can be a visit directly to someone’s home, work, or grave site. If you do n’ot know where the person is, you can go to a special place that reminds you of her or him and speak from your heart.
It may be a part of your body you have not liked, and have spoken negatively to in the past. Take a moment to say thank you for what it has done for you:
“Thank you, stomach, for allowing me the gift of giving birth to 4 amazing babies.”
“Thank you, thighs, for continuing to transport my body where I want and need to go every day.”
5. Say a gratefulness mantra meditation at the end of your day.
Take a few minutes to close your eyes, notice your breath, and say thank you to whatever it is that you want…a good conversation you had that day, a great cup of coffee, a loving husband, a beautiful daughter, strong legs…
6. Say thank you at meal time to the food that you eat.
Be grateful for the food that fuels you to live your life, to the store you received it from, to the farmer who grew it, or to the person who prepared it.
7. Take a moment to look in the mirror, and find some compassionate and kind words to say to your reflection.
Treating yourself in this manner will decrease stress and help increase self- confidence and self-esteem.
8. Discover a daily ritual practice.
What is one thing you do every day? Have a cup of coffee? Take a warm shower? Get into the car to drive to work? During one of your daily rituals, take a moment to give thanks. It could be something you take for granted…your ability to hear, walk, see or it could be a thanks to your car, your dog, or your coffee.
Starting a gratitude practice can have wonderful health and well-being benefits. Find one that feels right to you, and begin to notice the benefits right away.
Do you have a different way to practice gratitude? Comment below to let us know!