Sometimes I’m asked, “What is the quickest way to get healthy?”
My answer is simple. “Start focusing on good the things in your life. Take stock of what is benefiting you (people, behaviors, habits, environments) and lean into those areas of your life. Place less emphasis on what you don’t have or what is irritating you, especially if it is a physical symptom.”
This may seem like a non-answer or a Zen riddle, but it really is that simple. We know that feelings of compassion, gratitude and joy can return our physical bodies to states of equanimity or homeostasis. We know that prolonged feelings of anger, fear, judgment, worry and shame lower our immune systems, disrupt our sex hormones, increase our resting heart rates and blood pressure, not to mention that they cloud our perceptions of reality.
In a study conducted at The University of Miami one group of people wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.
It would appear that “venting” is not actually helpful to us emotionally or physically. It’s actually a matter of health to learn to call on positive emotions like gratitude when we are feeling challenged, fearful, or untrusting. I am emphasizing the word learn, because most of us need to learn or relearn how to keep our minds in the realm of gratitude.
It’s easy to feel gratitude when we are happy or when life is seemingly going our way, but can we feel it when we are being challenged? This is where the work lies. By work, I mean discipline.
Can you commit to creating a habit of starting your day by simply stating what you are grateful for? (Click to tweet.)
This doesn’t require extra time. It simply requires remembering to do so daily. You can even multitask this behavior. When I began it years ago, I coupled it with my morning dog walks. It was simple to remember because Farah had to be walked every morning, no questions asked. Soon I developed a Pavlovian response in that every time I grabbed the leash my mind wandered towards what I was grateful for. How is that for some irony? The dog was conditioning me! It usually began with being grateful for her and that she was still with me, or the beauty of the day, but it would quickly fill with lists of people, patients, events, revelations etc. Occasionally there would be days where one thing or person took center stage and soaked up all of my gratitude like a dry plant on a summer’s day. Every day was different. The idea here is just like our meditations; there is no right or wrong way to do it. Make it your way so it will stick!
If you want more stillness, visit us at www.ladypotions.com/meditations for free-guided meditations around gratitude and how to experience more of it for a healthier life.
Now, let's meditate. See below for an audio meditation.