What is the one thing that everyone world-wide is searching for?
Now the form happiness takes may vary for people, but we are all striving for joy in our lives. Some of us think happiness exists in material possessions, a fulfilling career, or maybe children that behave perfectly – you can fill in the blank for what that looks like for yourself.
I’ve come to realize that happiness actually comes when we are content with who we are, and what we have. In other words, happiness is wanting what you already have.
People who express gratitude on a regular basis tend to be healthier, more optimistic, and reach their goals more often than people who don’t.
Why not give gratitude a try?
The Affect On Our Health
So why am I talking about finding joy on a health blog? Because I believe keeping gratitude and contentment in life plays a major role in the health of our bodies, specifically our brains.
I’ve been honest with you all about my struggle with anxiety. I believe my brain is wired to tend toward anxiety, but it doesn’t have to control my life. I’ve always tended to focus on the negative in my life, instead of the positive and eventually I realized the anxiety was produced from my thoughts.
Focusing on fears, negative events, or thinking of “what if” scenarios will lead anyone into an anxious state. Allowing anxiety to rule our life can lead to major health issues like high blood pressure, insomnia, digestive problems, and panic attacks. This is serious stuff!
Once I discovered that my thoughts determined my mood, I knew I had to change. I began to focus on the positive and be intentional with my thoughts. I realized that practicing regular gratitude had an immediate results on my emotions and contentment in my life.
Studying an Attitude of Gratitude
I was recently reading Dr. Daniel Amen’s book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. Dr. Amen is a functional psychiatrist who performs brain scans to evaluate the activity and state of the brain. He found when working with a patient, that after 30 minutes of meditating on all the things in their life she was thankful for her brain looked healthy on the scan. He then compared it to a scan of that same patient focusing on frightening and negative thoughts. He found decreased activity in the parts of the brain that are involved with memory, mood, and coordination.
There has been plenty of other research supporting this same idea. When our mind focuses on fears and worries, it actually changes the activity of our brain by the chemicals that are released. However, when we focus on gratefulness and thankfulness, a completely different set of chemicals flood our brains!
How to Start Practicing Gratitude
So how do you stop feeling depressed, anxious, and worried all the time? Begin practicing gratitude! It may not change your circumstances, but it will change the way you view your life.
Awhile back, I began an exercise each morning. After waking up, before I got out of bed I would think of 3 things I was grateful for. It set me on a positive thought pattern for the rest of my day and after awhile I became a more positive, contented person.
You can also practice gratitude by writing down 5 things you are thankful for in your life each morning. Maybe you can do this in a prayer journal while sipping on your favorite hot beverage, or as a family exercise around the breakfast table. Writing them down will help to solidify them in your brain. When depressed patients in Dr. Amen’s clinic did this exercise, he noticed they got better faster.
So What’s Holding You Back?
It is time to stop letting these negative thoughts run our lives and affect our health. I am not saying you need to become a “power of positive thinking” person, but let’s start by being a little more grateful.
Take some time to pause and reflect on somethings you are grateful for. You don’t have to look far. I know you can do it.
As you continue to embark on your personal journey to health, consider taking a step with an attitude of gratitude. You will be glad you did.
~ Kelly ~
If you enjoyed this blog you might also enjoy Breathe – Learning How to Deal With Stress.