Those words are the start of the song “Hands” by Jewel and the first words that came to my mind when I thought about today’s blog post. Because really, if I could tell the world just one thing, it would be about the benefits of gratitude. Being grateful for what we have and being optimistic about what lies ahead is not just spiritual mumble-jumble but are real superfoods for your mind, body, and soul.
There is a growing body of research that establishes gratitude as a practice with a whole host of physical and psychological benefits. Grateful people enjoy stronger relationships and are more likely to be optimistic, determined, and empathetic. Gratitude has also been linked to increased levels of immunity, higher sleep quality, and improved brain and heart health.
I for one don’t doubt it at all having seen the benefits firsthand. My 70 year-young dad was diagnosed with Leukemia (cancer of the blood caused by abnormal production of blood cells), in December 2015. As you can imagine, it came to a shock to the entire family. To make matters worse, a few months later he was also diagnosed with Spondylodiscitis, a severe inflammation of the spine. He was told he'd be bed-bound for 5-6 months, not able to get up or turn to either side...wow! Week after week my dad stared at the bleak hospital wall, undoubtedly something that would make most people go mad. But my dad is an amazing human being…
He didn’t allow himself to be let down. Every day he joked with the doctors and nurses coming in, he counted his blessings and visualized being in the most wonderful place in the world. He has shared with me many times how he wakes up every morning being grateful for the things that happened the day before and simply asking that today is as good as yesterday was. His Spondylodiscitis improved so fast that he could get out of bad after seven weeks! Today my dad’s Leukemia stats are in the green he is hiking mountains, and travelling throughout Austria with his newly acquired camper van.
A while back I started a log, tracking my own mood and outlook on life and again found that the world was simply a much more optimistic place when I practiced gratitude on a regular basis. I’m using the word practice intentionally because it is like every other muscle in your body you need to train. The trick is to not just rattle of the lists of things you are grateful for but to rather take a minute to truly consider why. Physically feel that emotion around your heart area and imagine to vibrate this feeling out to the world. It will undoubtedly effect every cell in your body.
I recommend finding a few minutes daily (I do it first thing in the morning before I even get out of bed). Having a set time creates a routine so you don’t forget about it (although I do have a reminder on my nightstand :-). Don’t wait until you get sick. Being grateful will enhance your everyday life, making you a healthier and happier person, I have no doubt about that.