Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

Mindful Gratitude Leads to a Healthy Life

Nov 25, 2014

By Victor S. Sierpina, MD

The mind can only hold one thought or emotion at a time.

Therefore, it important to learn how to get out of our clutter and conditioned responses, entering into the present moment, and proceeding mindfully and thoughtfully to healthy choices. Such changes in our approach to life can be used for mindful eating, improving relationships, and relishing our daily experiences in a deeper way.

Jon Kabat Zinn says, “Mindfulness means paying attention, in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of the present moment reality.“

Another wise person said, “Mindfulness gives you time. Time gives you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom. You don’t have to be swept away by your feeling. You can respond with feeling. You can respond with wisdom and kindness rather than habit and reactivity.”

So if we can hold only one thought, one emotion at a time, how about holding one of gratitude. Gratitude is absolutely the way to bring more life into your life.

An example of how to do this is Robert Emmons book Gratitude Works! A 21-day program for creating emotional prosperity.

In order to make gratitude a regular process in replacing the negativity that often imposes itself from our world, Emmons, a professor at UCLA, suggests a regular journaling practice. By writing down on a daily or every other day basis the things we are grateful for, our mind becomes increasingly focused on the positive elements of our lives. This creates not only relief from stress but actually has the benefit of helping us notice and attract more of the kinds of things we want and less of the things we don’t want. Put some detail and description of what you are grateful for. Commit to spending five to 10 minutes daily or every other day journaling. Morning or evening, it doesn’t matter when you do it, as long as you do it.

Here are some categories of gratitude to write about. In the 21-day plan in Gratitude Works! they are rotated from one day to the next and repeated weekly for three weeks so we learn to experience and document gratitude on multiple levels and in multiple ways.

  1. Recall and write down three good things that happened today for which you could give other people credit.
  2. Write down five things for which you are thankful and a person who provided this gift or benefit to you.
  3. Reflect and note some of the gifts in your life. These can be simple everyday pleasures, people in your life, personal strengths or talents, moments of natural beauty, or gestures of kindness from others. Also plan opportunities to pay it forward by sharing these gifts with others.
  4. Consider an event, activity, experience, or relationship that may be ending soon. In the time left with this situation, think what you are grateful for that perhaps you took for granted. We often appreciate things better as they end rather than while they are ongoing.
  5. Use the “more by less” gratitude by reflecting on how your life would have been different if a certain person or situation had never appeared. For example, if I had never met my wife or husband, how would my life have been different?
  6. Write a gratitude letter to someone for something good they brought to your life. You may or not send it but just do it. You will learn to give thanks in a timely way.
  7. Remember the bad. Consider your worst moments or unpleasant times in your life.Reflect on how things are better now, how the events made you a stronger, kinder person, and how many bad things you worried about never happened.

This can be an ongoing process of journaling, consciousness, and attitude. Get a plain little notebook or something fancy, whatever you choose. Write in it regularly about the things you are grateful for. I predict you will find more and more to be thankful for in your life. Your attitude will definitely shift to one of health, wholeness, optimism, and well-being.