This month we’re talking about gratitude. According to Cambridge Dictionary gratitude is defined as: “a strong feeling of appreciation to someone or something for what the person has done to help you”
How is “gratitude’ related to health and fitness, I hear you say? You might be surprised to find out what impact it can have on your body and therefore on your wellbeing.
Gratitude and its Effects on the Body
Robert Emmons is a researcher who has done a lot of work around gratitude, his research plus others have given us these insights into gratitude and what it does for our wellbeing. Gratitude changes our hormones. Particularly, it boosts oxytocin, which makes us feel bonded and connected:
- to ourselves
- to other people
- to our environment
- to society
And that feels amazing, oxytocin is a wonderful thing. Parents have it when they hold their newborn babies, mothers have it when they breastfeed (most of the time). I get it when I stare deep into my rescue dog’s big brown eyes, and I can see her blissing out with the oxytocin as well.
Oxytocin also makes us more optimistic – that is what the studies have found, and it boosts happiness. It is impossible to feel grateful and anxious at the same time. Or grateful and angry, grateful and stressed, grateful and sad. Gratitude is an incredibly powerful way to change your emotional soundtrack.
I think this is such an easy thing in some ways to do. You can get oxytocin:
- through laughter
- through touch (like massage)
- through music, listening to and making music
- we get it from being with other people
- we get it from sharing how we feel
It is an integral part of being human.
Gratitude is Democratically Available to Everybody
Another key aspect to gratitude as a part of your health and fitness strategy is, that it is something that is democratically available as well and it’s free – anybody can practice gratitude. Whether it is spontaneous, such as looking out the window, thinking “I am very lucky to have x!” or “what a beautiful view”. Or whether it is deliberate. We can practice gratitude deliberately as part of your meditation, for example, or as I do every morning: I’ll sit and read a short paragraph from my nature book and then I’ll reflect on what I am grateful for. So, in that way, I am being proactive and purposeful about my gratitude and other times it happens spontaneously.
Start a Proactive and Purposeful Gratitude Practice
So give that a try, maybe set a 10-day resolution to every morning, think about what it is you are grateful for, or just open up your awareness as you are going about your daily life and think, “wow, that’s incredibly beautiful!”. Just appreciate and be grateful for the fact that you got to see and witness that thing or that particular moment.
So, that is everything from me this month, and all the very best for now, stay healthy.