Wouldn’t you like to be healthier and happier? Research shows that actively practicing gratitude can have many positive effects. The 8-week Mindful Eating-Conscious Living (ME-CL) program includes exercises that cultivate gratitude: Gratitude for the Body, and Looking Deeply Into Your Food. These are exercises that participants enjoy and often continue after finishing the program.
Our blogs are almost always focused on the “mindful eating” half of ME-CL. I would like to focus on the “conscious living” aspect. If you have watched your mind in meditation you may have noticed the mind’s tendency to focus on the negative. What do I mean by “negative”? Thoughts that cause stress. You can watch your mind returning again and again to particular worries (Finances? Politics? Loved ones?), to the mistakes we made in the past, and to the possibility of future diseases or disasters.
Why does the mind do this?
The mind does this because it believes that its job is thinking, and that thinking a lot will protect us against difficulties, especially the greatest difficulty, death. A glance at newspaper headlines will show you want our mind is interested in. As I write, they include predictions of a worldwide epidemic beginning in China, the partisan fight over impeachment in the US Congress, a helicopter crash that killed a basketball star and his teenaged daughter, the recall of hundreds of thousands of infant sleeping beds because of cases of suffocation.
When our mind’s diet is fear, we cannot not thrive.
We need to feed our mind nourishing food. Gratitude is extremely nourishing – the research showing this is quite robust. When people spend just a few minutes every day for ten weeks writing down things they are grateful for, they experience benefits in their heart and mind (increased sense of well-being, increased optimism, increased satisfaction with life) and even in their body (fewer doctor visits, more exercise).
What is an example of a gratitude practice?
A long-lasting positive effect was seen in people who wrote a single thank you letter to someone in their life who had not been adequately thanked for their kindness, and delivered it in person. The positive effects of gratitude practice were also seen in people with chronic illness, and in relationships.
Gratitude practice is a non-pharmaceutical way to improve mood, well being and physical health. It is a remedy for stress and anxiety that has only positive side effects.
- Would you like to try gratitude practice? Each night, before bed, spend a few minutes sitting or lying quietly and bringing to mind at least five things that you are grateful for.
- Do you notice any changes in your body, mind or heart when you do gratitude practice?
Jan Chozen Bays, USA
- The Harvard Mental Health Letter (6/5/19) https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/in-praise-of-gratitude