Why Gratitude is Great For Your Health

Take a moment to review your day or week so far. What thoughts come up? Are you thinking about endless to-do lists or how it’s been a tough week at work? Perhaps you’re disappointed with a friend who flaked on dinner or you’re irritated with your partner who forgot to go grocery shopping. It’s very human to focus on the things that don’t seem to be going well, rather than those things that are.

With that in mind – what are you grateful for?

Reframe the way you think

Let’s reframe some of those earlier thoughts. Do you remember how that friend was there for you and listened to you when you thought the world was falling apart? Do you recall all those words of encouragement and support your partner has given you throughout your relationship?

We all tend to take things for granted. The simple fact that you can read this post is a pretty incredible thing — think about it, you could have grown up with limited to no educational opportunities or without the information resources you have now (i.e. a computer, smartphone, internet access, etc.)

Studies have shown that cultivating gratitude can have a range of positive effects on your health and well-being from being less stressed to increasing energy and even exercising more.

Feeling grateful takes practice

I like to compare gratitude to muscles – you need to train your muscles to become stronger. We all know that when we first workout it can be painful, your muscle fibers tear in order to build and grow, leaving you feeling sore for a couple days. The result, however, is that you get stronger with every workout. The same can be applied to gratitude. You have to train it to become better at it and it’s not always easy.

If I don’t practice gratitude regularly – in my case I do this by meditating and using a gratitude journal — I find myself feeling more stressed out. My life seems to rush by and I get upset about the smallest things. My focus shifts from what’s going well in my life to what isn’t.

Here is an excerpt from my journal:

Recently when I was traveling from Mexico to Germany, one of my flights got delayed, resulting in me missing my connecting flight. The knock-on effect was that my trip took 10 hours longer than planned. I could have let that upset me. I could have felt sorry for myself, as I waited hours on end at the airport. However, that wouldn’t have changed situation or helped me in any way. Instead, I decided to reflect on what was going well. First off, I thought how immensely lucky I was to have just visited Mexico and that I am privileged enough to travel.

In fact, I ended up having 10 additional happy hours spent in Mexico because of the delay. Suddenly I had so much extra time, which I used to reflect on things, read a book, call my loved ones and enjoy a delicious piece of cake.

I can say with confidence, that there isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not happy to get out of bed and start the day. Sure, there are still moments and days where I don’t feel my best, but those days far and few between.

How gratitude helps you stay motivated

It’s not only people or situations that can be taken for granted but yourself as well. We might take it as a given that our bodies will always function optimally. We may think that it doesn’t matter what or how much we eat or even if we exercise regularly. Taking our health for granted can make it more difficult to push ourselves to workout or eat healthy well-balanced meals. When I feel thankful for my health, I am more motivated to maintain or improve it by nourishing myself with nutritious food and regularly finding time to squeeze in a 10-minute 8fit workout.

food recipes app example

5 ways to count practice gratitude

I use a variety of methods to practice gratitude. Here are my 5 favorites. Give them a go and see what works best for you:

  1. Imagine a life without ____: Imagine what your life would be like without your job, friends, partner, home or food. Imagine if someone close to you were no longer with you, would you ruminate about that one time they let you down or rather the beautiful moments you shared?
  2. Keep a gratitude journal: Each day I write down 5 things I’m grateful for. It can be as simple as the smell of a fresh cup of coffee, a colleague that helped me with a task, to that feeling of accomplishment after completing a workout. Once this becomes part of your daily routine, it will become easier to notice and appreciate the small things in your life that make it special.
  3. Dare to share: Express gratitude towards the people in your life that you value. Show them just how grateful you are for their support, for their help, and for the things they have taught you. Call them, write them a message or letter, thank them in person or treat them to dinner the next time you meet up.
  4. Set an intention: Choosing and maintaining an achievable intention is key. One of my intentions is getting to my favorite yoga class and when there, staying present — not being distracted by what others are doing or my own thoughts. A few other intentions I like to weave into my day are making sure that I mindfully prepare and eat a home-cooked meal or treat others kindly even when my day isn’t going smoothly.
  5. Remember the good, bad and ugly: Not everything will go your way or work out well, and that’s okay. Remember the moments you felt down and how you managed to navigate yourself through those challenging times. Someone may have hurt you or you may have survived an illness, and though it was tough at the time, you can reflect on how much better things are now. These experiences might even be what spurred you on to work out more and eat wholesome foods, embracing a healthier, happier lifestyle.

Exercising gratitude regularly allows you to reframe thoughts and situations, helping you feel more positive and motivated. Being grateful for both the good and the bad life throws at us helps to transform challenges into opportunities and setbacks into motivation to meet our goals. Once those goals have been met – we can then appreciate having reached them and feel grateful for how far we’ve come in the process.