Thanksgiving 2017 is well behind us. I hope you had a wonderful celebration. My husband and I enjoy cooking, so hosting Thanksgiving this year was a treat. Family and friends gathered around our table with all the festive trimmings. It was a time to give thanks for our health, our happiness, our loved ones near and far, and to fondly remember those we dearly miss.
Now, as we begin to make the mad dash toward Christmas, it would be easy to leave behind all that Thanksgiving represents. Pressure mounts as schedules get busier, end-of-year work demands increase, trees need trimming, party invitations stream in, cookies need baking, gifts need to be purchased and wrapped…the list seems never-ending, and expectations pile up, too.
But there is something about gratitude, expressed year-round, day after day, and in some instances moment by moment, that would serve us well.
Last March, I discovered the 5-Minute Journal by Intelligent Change, and the name captured my attention. Five minutes seemed like a reasonable amount of time to devote to journaling in my already full days, many of which are often filled with writing in one form or another. I’ve been aware of the benefits of journaling for some time, as well as the benefits of expressing gratitude…two activities I’ve consciously popped in and out of over the years. But something drew me to this 5-Minute approach.
Before I share the outcome of my gratitude journaling, which by the way, I did every morning and evening for 6 months, let me tell you what science has uncovered about expressing gratitude. The simple act of acknowledging gratitude can lead to better health and more happiness. Studies show that the expression of gratitude can positively impact the brain and affect critical systems in the body. It does this by:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Increasing production of neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine)
- Helping to balance blood sugar
- Evening out heart rhythms
- Strengthening the immune system
- Decreasing inflammation
Why am I promoting the benefits of gratitude journaling when, as a nutritionist, you’d expect me to focus on food, nutrition, and healthful dietary changes? Because when expressing gratitude leads to feeling better about ourselves and making us happier, we tend to make better food choices, and we eat less. Our digestion improves, which allows us to more easily break down the food we eat and assimilate its nutrient value. This is a foundation of health. We can eat healthful, nutrient-dense food, day after day, but if we are not able to extract its nutrients because of anger, worry, anxiety or a general sense of uneasiness, the body will eventually reach a state of depletion.
My 6 months of gratitude journaling got me through some challenging times earlier this year. It provided me much needed time to slow down, quiet my mind, relax my body, and focus on all the good in my life…if only for 5 minutes a day. It helped me be less critical and irritable, more appreciative, and better able to ‘go with the flow.’ My brain truly changed over time! Now, there is not a day that goes by when I don’t find something for which I am grateful. I may not write it down or speak my gratitude out loud, but it easily flows through my brain and lands in my heart.
Moving into this holiday season, I challenge you to devote 5 minutes each day to expressing gratitude about your life…be it your health, your intelligence, your work, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your home, your motivation, your exercise routine…whatever it is you want to acknowledge…big or small. Then check back in a couple months to share your insights. My guess is you will be healthier and happier as a result.
Here’s to your health and vitality!
I believe good health is as close as your kitchen. My nutrition practice is based on nutrient-dense, whole food and lifestyle choices that support health and wellness, especially during times of high stress and transitions. My role is to educate, guide and support individuals who want to break the stress-induced cycle of depletion and regain control of their health. I am Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition® and look forward to helping you create a vibrant life. To learn more, contact me at 303-442-2492 or by email.