How Does Being Grateful Change My Mind and Body?
Gratitude gives you superpowers! Not the kind for climbing walls or flying over buildings. But the kind that helps you show up to your life like a real badass! Gratitude means paying attention to your life in a specific way. Gratitude is about making a daily choice. The practice of gratitude is as simple and profound as choosing the lens in which you see yourself, your environment, other people, material possessions, and the daily events. Gratitude is about having an appreciation for the positive(s) in any given situation. The definition of gratitude does not include comparing yourself to others, or their situation. Nor is it only available to us when “good” things are happening. Gratitude is a practice and therefore requires deliberate and repeated effort to continuously reap the rewards of this superpower.
Numerous studies have shown that practicing gratitude consistently for as little as three weeks, has tremendous physical, psychological, and social benefits. Here is a chart outlining some benefits of a grateful body and mind.
- Stronger immune systems
- Less bothered by aches and pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Exercise more and take better care of their health
- Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More alert, alive, and awake
- More joy and pleasure
- More optimism and happiness
- More helpful, generous, and compassionate
- More forgiving
- More outgoing
- Feel less lonely and isolated
Source: The Greater Good Science Center
Try these two gratitude daily exercises to help you do better, by thinking better.
This simple hack has received plenty of attention, and for good reason. There are many psychological benefits to journaling your thoughts, but when you add the practice of gratitude into the mix, it gets even better. My favorite gratitude tool is the Five Minute Journal. This book keeps the exercise brief, organized, and asks important questions. If you are not interested in using a tool, just grab a piece of paper and write down 3-5 things you are grateful for every day.
Often newbies start by working their brain extra hard in search of “large” and “awesome” points in the day. That is not necessary. Focusing on “small” things trains the brain to focus and be grateful for everyday occurrences. For example, try paying attention and showing gratitude when someone looks you in the eyes and says "have a nice day". Or when you are in a rush to get somewhere and you catch a few green lights in a row. Or the invigorating morning air on your face as you first step outside. Or… or… or… there are plenty of moments! You just have to notice them. This requires us to slow down and pay attention, to notice the positive in these situations.
- What is one thing you are grateful for today?
- What is it about this thing that makes you grateful?
- How often are you acknowledging your gratitude towards this thing?
More than just “thank you”
Most often we say “thank you” to someone, but do not fully explain why we are thanking them. In fact, most often we kind of mutter “thanks” as we fly through the conversation and onto the next point, or as we are closing the conversation. This type of “thank you” doesn’t really stick! How can we say thank you and make the other person feel appreciated? How can we give them a deeper understanding of why we are thanking them in the first place?
It is time to say “thank you” to others (and ourselves) in a way that helps the brain fully understand, appreciate, and remember why we are being shown or showing gratitude.
How to say thank you: The 3-Level Acknowledgement
Level one: Thank the person (or yourself)
- E.g. Thank you for completing that report.
Level two: Show appreciation for the why + what
- E.g. Thank you for completing that report. I know it was a last-minute request, but you showed up and took the time to do your best to get it done.
Level three: Focus on learning and growth
- E.g. Thank you for completing that report. I know it was a last-minute request, but you showed up and took the time to do your best to get it done. I am really noticing how much effort you are putting into these projects, and I want you to know how much it helps our team develop new strategies for growth.
Try it out:
- Write three 3-Level Acknowledgements for people in your life.
- Write three 3-Level Acknowledgements for yourself.
Whether you are applying this information to your personal or professional life (I suggest both!), the key is to consistently practice. Take five minutes every day to commit to being grateful. Give it a go, your brain is waiting for you to do better, by thinking better!
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Dr. Yashar Khosroshahi, ND, ACC is the Chair of the Medical Advisory Board (MAB) for Relyf and co-founder of MINDSHIFT NINJA, a Leadership Development company