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Gratitude and Wellness

November 15, 2012

grateful heart

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

— Marcus Aurelius

You may be reading quite a bit in the next week about thankfulness and gratitude, which is, of course, very seasonal.  At Vista Hill SmartCare  we encourage others to incorporate a gratitude practice as a part of their daily routines, as we are learning and appreciating that gratitude reaps health and wellness benefits in so many ways.    Developing a gratitude practice is taking Mindfulness to a level of Thankfulness:  with Mindfulness we observe and accept with full awareness.  When we begin to reflect on all we have to be grateful for with mindfulness, our attitude and approach makes a significant shift.   We are more aware, more present, more receptive of all that is around us: those gestures, those kind words, those small acts of kindness, nature’s beauty.

Laura Fine states, “When you practice thankfulness, a physical and mental transformation occurs. Your brain begins perceiving even more to be thankful for. You find yourself focusing on your strengths. You’re smiling. Your spine straightens. The muscles in your face and neck relax and your breaths deepen. Your creative juices begin to flow and you get creative ideas on how to turn your situation around and move in a direction that inspires you”.

It is fairly easy to see that grateful people are more relaxed, less stressed, more connected to others around them.    And according to Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, they are also less likely to experience envy, anger, resentment, regret and other unpleasant states that produce stress.

Emmons further states that grateful people, those who embrace gratitude as a permanent state rather than just a temporary state of mind, helps people to cope with stress, it helps them to be more optimistic, which in turn increases the immune system,  and can even help those to better face tragedies. 

Emmons and other researchers have several suggestions for cultivating gratitude:

Keep a gratitude journal:  either at the start of the day or at the end of the day

Write thank you notes:  let others know what you appreciate about them (and don’t forget to write one to yourself every once in a while!)

prayer:  those that are religious use prayer to cultivate gratitude

meditation : focus on what you are grateful for

Count your blessings: can you list 3 things each day?  5? more?

 As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, we encourage you to be receptive to a gratitude practice.  After all, better health, less stress and more connectedness are all good things!

“When gratitude replaces judgment, peace spreads throughout your body, gentleness embraces your soul, and wisdom fills your mind.”

– Neale Donald Walsch

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