The month of November is a wonderful time of year! Thanksgiving provides a unique opportunity to blend food, family, and football, while also encouraging a spirit of gratitude and giving. For as long as I can remember, my family would go around the table to share what we were thankful for before enjoying our Thanksgiving dinner. I know we aren’t alone in this practice. We are all thankful for our family, friends, jobs, home, and especially the food.
Over the past few years, many people I know, including myself, have engaged in “30 days of gratitude” during the month of November. While expressing what you are grateful for each day is life giving…it is not always easy! I’m glad we have so much to be thankful for, but to be totally honest, I would love gratitude to shift from a day, a season, or a series of fleeting moments to a way of life! True gratitude is a powerful healer, and that happens when our gratitude goes beyond the things we perceive to be “good.”
When we are stressed, our mind narrows and focuses on the perceived danger, and as a result the body stiffens. Additionally, the hormones adrenaline and cortisol signal the fight or flight response, consequently resulting in full-on “stress mode”! Gratitude, on the other hand, causes our body to relax and “expand” on all levels which allows our minds to be open to much greater possibilities. Before 2000, there were less than two dozen scientific studies about the effects of gratitude on physical health. Thankfully scientists are increasingly interested its effect on overall heath. In the past four years alone, there were numerous studies showing the ways gratitude positively impacted health. One example was long-term survivorship in breast cancer patients. Another showed its impact on blood pressure regulation in the elderly. Other studies also showed the benefit for those who struggled with fatigue, depression, and inflammation.
How do we practically live a life of gratitude? One of my favorite methods is to journal DAILY. When we put pen to paper and express sincere thankfulness, there are specific centers of the brain that will show change for up to three months. Sometimes the thought of journaling is a daunting idea. Don’t make it difficult! First, I suggest journaling at the end of the day, so you can review your day. I also recommend starting with just one thing per day, and then increase the number as you get the gratitude juices flowing! Sara Gottfried MD suggests journaling the 4 G’s: what you are Grateful for, Good things that happened that day, Glitches that you can learn from, and Goals for the next day. (I also like this, because the good and the glitches keep you in balance emotionally. By focusing only on the good…we can eventually become prideful. By having gratitude for even the things we percieve to be “bad”, we will find we are more emotionally stable.)
For couples and families, I suggest showing gratitude toward each other by writing little notes of thankfulness. One suggestion is to write one thing on a mirror or a picture frame each day. My husband and I love to hide post-it notes in each others vehicles. If you pack your child’s lunch put a little note telling whem why you are thankful for them in their lunch bag. The possibilities are endless! The best part is as you do this…you will notice that you actually will like each other more! One final suggestion is to write notes of gratitude to someone in your life…and mail it to them!
Be grateful for the “Negative”. Infertility. Cancer. Fibromyalgia. Autism. Chronic Pain. Most people, upon hearing these words, will not say they are grateful for those “negative” life experiences. In fact, most people will have a negative reaction. When I share my personal testimony of healing (from Thyroid Cancer), people often respond, “I could never do what you did.” For the most part, this is due to their perception that symptoms and diseases are bad. However, I have learned there is a benefit in the “bad,” and it is important to have gratitude for the “negative” in our lives.
One of my mentors, Dr. Alok Trivedi, with the Aligned Performance Institute, helps his clients see both sides of every life experience. He says, “We will often perceive something as being good or bad, but symptoms, like cancer, are simply a feedback mechanism of the body giving you awareness of how to heal. When we only look at symptoms as negative, we limit ourselves and our understanding of the power of the human body and healing.”
As someone who has faced a cancer diagnosis, I can also honestly say, if given the opportunity to go back in time, I would still go through it. I now look at that “negative” part of my life, see the benefits, and am truly grateful.
At Thrive Chiropractic, we find that individuals will often initially seek chiropractic care because they want to get rid of a symptom–ranging from pain to anxiety and even infertility. They are usually NOT Grateful for the symptom! Getting rid of symptoms is not our ultimate goal, because we want to find the cause of the symptoms (nerve dysfunction). Since the symptom is the signal from the body that wakes us up to the lack of true health, we teach our patients that gratitude for the symptom is an important aspect of the process of healing. What do you have to be grateful for today?