Gratitude is “the state of appreciating benefits received”, to paraphrase Merriam Webster. It’s a mindful reflection and appreciation of what you have been given, whether deserved or not. We tend to talk about gratitude (or thankfulness) specifically around Thanksgiving, but gratitude can really be a year-round reflection. In truth, it probably should be a year round reflection. There’s a surprising amount of evidence that a regular practice of gratitude can be a very healthy thing.
Researchers at Stanford took some time to study gratitude (you can read some of the results in this article). You might guess what they found. Generally, gratitude encourages people to feel happy. This happiness is related to better quality of life (since we know that happiness lowers stress levels and improves nervous system function). This is how being thankful can lead to health. However, you can’t expect to get any happiness out of gratitude if you practice it mindlessly. As the article notes above, for thankfulness to truly help you be happy, you need some emotional maturity and comprehension. In short, you also need some mindfulness about why you are (or should be) thankful.
The way you’re usually encouraged to practice being thankful is with a journal. (One author’s experience with that is here.) With a journal you write down a couple things every day that you are thankful for. Usually you want these things to be unique, or that were prompted by something that happened over the previous day. In this way you are being mindful for what things you are thankful each day. While this seems almost too simple a practice, it is this very basic act of looking back and being thankful that influences you to look at the present and future with gratitude and hope.
If you’re dealing with chronic pain or anxiety, this kind of practice is all the more important. In our office we definitely see a difference in outcomes between people who are generally thankful and have a positive outlook versus those who don’t. We have come to believe that some of the most powerful medicine is the simple, mindful things we do every day.
So thank you for visiting us and reading this page! If you are having health problems that are hindering your gratitude, schedule your consultation and we’ll be grateful to help.