Today, so many things call us into worry, fear, anger, despair. We are naturally programmed to protect and seek safety in stress, often focusing on things that don't contribute to rest and recovery. This year, this season, the ability to focus on being grateful is difficult at best.
Yet spending moments on gratitude has been proven to reduce stress and effect immune system function positively. “Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life. It can lower blood pressure and improve immune function... grateful people engage in more exercise, have better dietary behaviors, are less likely to smoke and abuse alcohol, and have higher rates of medication adherence” says Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., professor of psychology at University of California-Davis and author of The Little Book of Gratitude.
That's why there's no better time to exercise those gratitude muscles. And before we talk about a training plan, let's agree to be okay with saying we need help here. A plan to remind ourselves to be thankful is not an admission of weakness or something we should "just know how to do," but rather a strategy to be successful in making gratitude count for your health and wellness.
For all of us who need the action plan, here are 3 simple exercises to work out that gratitude muscle on the regular:
Find 3 things every day. Set an alarm on your phone. Start a gratitude journal. Call a friend and exchange 3 things each of you are thankful for that day. Like every day sit-ups, do not underestimate the power of consistency in this effort.
Volunteer. No, we're not talking about entering the Peace Corps (although we respect that decision). Volunteering is simply helping others. Who could you assist with something this week? It could be running errands or the gift of time or sharing a meal. Don't wait to be asked- reach out and offer.
Surround Yourself With Gratitude. The people you live life with directly impact the life you will live. Find time to be with the people who observe and practice gratitude and make it part of their regular conversation- and be that person for others!
Here's your chance to get in shape- for yourself and the world around you!