September 21, 2018 is National Gratitude Day!
Yes, that’s a thing. Although every day should be National Gratitude Day, I especially like that it has a day because it gives me a chance to spread the love and to also tell you something you may not know.
What is it? I think that gratitude is an affirmation of mankind. It’s a feeling that reminds us there are good things in the world, good people and good intentions. It reminds us to look at our blessings and benefits, and motivates us to want more. Gratitude encourages us to appreciate our gifts and pay them forward.
But did you know? Gratitude also causes better health. It’s true.
State of the Mind = State of the Body
As a way of perceiving and interpreting life, gratitude conjures other positive emotions, such as joy, that have direct physical benefits on the immune system and endocrine system (Today). The parasympathetic (calming part of the nervous system) is activated, which triggers protective benefits in the body, lowering cortisol (stress hormones) and increasing oxytocin (feel-good hormones).
There is a science behind health and happiness and researchers have been trying to prove it for years. In a 2006 study, 30 dental students were tested for their immune system activity. For two months, they were each given a harmless blood protein from rabbits that causes an immune response in humans. On days they were happier, their saliva tested positive for the presence of an antibody that defends against foreign substances (Newman). Need I say more?
Doesn’t it seem like every grumpy person you know is always sick or living with some kind of ailment? Think. I bet at least two people pop into your mind. Are they people you’re grateful for? Maybe they need to be.
Studies have shown that gratitude…
- Lowers blood pressure
- Protects your heart
- Builds up the immune system
- Improves sleep
- Lowers inflammation
- Increases Energy
- Reduces dietary fat
- Lowers cortisol by combating stress
- Reduces pain
- Lengthens your lifespan
Anyone can find gratitude! ANYONE.
The first time Amy Martocci attended a networking event with me, one of the other members asked her if she was the same Amy Martocci from “that Facebook page about gratitude.” I had no idea what he was talking about; however, a lot of other people in the room did. I looked around and was amazed at the smiles. It was then that I realized we’d hired a local celebrity. Not only did Amy create a Facebook page called ‘Practicing Gratitude,’ she had quite the following, with over 4,500 members!
I got to sit down with her to find out more—to ask Why Gratitude?
“I began Practicing Gratitude 6 years ago after experiencing several personal and health tragedies,” Amy explained. “It became very important to me to monitor my thoughts, words, and images I was taking in every day.”
As Amy’s life and overall wellbeing began to improve, she wanted to share what she’d found. “As gratitude and positivity are a mindset and a continual practice, my Facebook group allows for that,” she shared. “It’s thought provoking, engaging and inspirational!”
After joining her group, I now look forward to her posts. Each one encourages me to take a second out of my hectic day and remember how blessed I am. My favorite posts are when she asks us to think of something we’re thankful for that starts with a certain letter. It really helps me examine my life. The letter “N,” for instance, makes me remember my Nana and that just warms my heart. It makes me take a second to be grateful for my precious Nana and the time I had with her. It then makes me think of my mother in-law, who my children also call Nana. Then I’m grateful for my amazing mother in-law. You see! All these good feels from one little letter. Gratitude!
Having a difficult time feeling the love? Don’t get your cortisol levels all flared up. Gratitude is something you can learn!
Keep a Journal: If you can’t seem to recall anything to be grateful for, find something. It can be the blue sky, the tree outside your kitchen window, the squirrel who hangs out in your backyard, a childhood memory, your sister’s smile, your father’s laugh, your pet curled in your lap… something has to be there. Find it!
Think about being grateful: Make a conscious effort every day to think about being grateful. Practice. Make it a morning ritual. There’s no better way to start your day. Practice before you get out of bed to think of a few things that make you happy and then again before you fall asleep reflect on a few things from the day that you were grateful for.
Change your color: We are surrounded by blacks, grays, and whites all day. Add a pop of color to your work space or home. Nothing reminds me to tune into myself more than the color yellow. I see it and I think helloooooo sun!
Improve your physical health: There’s nothing more to be grateful for than good health. If you don’t feel like you’re there, then get there. Implement a workout routine to your day. Walk, run, bike, trot, skip, do yoga, TRX, karate…whatever! Do something physical every day and you’ll feel your health improve.
Take a stroll down memory lane: I love old photos. My uncle seems to find the most amazing pictures of my grandparents and my childhood. I have a huge family with a million cousins. Life wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was happy and we had fun. When I look through old photos, my heart is full. I’m so thankful for that life and for those people. Try it. Go through a photo album or keepsakes you have tucked away. Feel blessed.
Finding gratitude is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. It opens us up to possibilities and makes us excited about life. It doesn’t perform miracles, but it is linked to longevity. When we look back on where we’ve been—even if it wasn’t all that great—it reminds us of where we’re headed and maybe even what we’ve overcome. Be grateful for every day, big and small.
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Newman, Kira. Greater Good Magazine