Looking back, I’m certain that having a knowledgeable trainer who took me step by step through the process was the thing that changed my body. But, probably more than anything else, practicing gratitude changed my mind and my spirit.
We live in culture of more, more, more– which creates an inherent sense of dissatisfaction with what we have, and worse, what we are. Watching commercials or seeing ads in magazines tells us that our teeth aren’t white enough, our TV isn’t big enough, and our car isn’t sporty enough. We spend a lot of our mental energy plotting our next big purchase or move– our next big high.
But when you think about it, that’s kind of what happens with food too. We have a filling, rewarding, enjoyable lunch with our friend or our spouse, but before we’re even up from the table, we’re thinking about dinner. Food often stokes the pleasure centers of our brain, which in turn tells us that we need more.
Food and stuff become very much like Turkish Delight in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. The more you have, the more you want.
Practicing gratitude though, changes the way our brain operates. As we become thankful for what we have, and what we are, our brain learns the word enough. We get off the hamster wheel of more, more, more, get, get, get. There’s a certain stillness and ok-ness that begins to happen. And while it may not save the world, it does begin to change our world. When everything becomes a gift, our outlook begins to change. As my best friend says, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.”
Besides, it’s the darnedest thing really. The more you appreciate what is right in front of you, the more that seems to show up for you to appreciate. Just think for a second about the postures of gratitude: open arms, open hands, etc. Even just the way you hold your body when you’re grateful says you’re open to possibilities beyond your wildest imagining.
I can’t swear that practicing gratitude will help you lose weight, or get physically healthier. But it has been proven that people who practice gratitude notice their aches and pains less. Even if nothing else changes, life feels more handle-able.
I’m not positive this is the same thing, but it always makes me think. I have two cats from the same litter. One of them is easy going, and more or less happy wherever he is. He purrs when he sits in the sun, or when I rub his head, or when he’s eating, or when he’s snuggled up by his brother. But his brother is always upset. He meows when I pet him, when I walk into the room, when the door isn’t left open so he can walk around the house. He even meows when I’ve just fed him and he has his head in the bowl. The first brother is fluffy and healthy with beautiful hair. But the second, who I don’t remember ever hearing purr, doesn’t seem nearly as well. All things considered, I think he’s ok– but he just doesn’t love life nearly as much as his brother. Food for thought maybe?
How do you start? Try this simple practice: every night before bed, call to mind (or journal or whatever) 5 things for which you’re grateful. Maybe it is that the sun finally came out. Or that the bill you were dreading isn’t as much as you thought. Or that smile from the little girl in the store. It doesn’t have to be huge things. But if you want to stretch yourself, try to be grateful for something that is presently making you 10 shades of mean. Even though your spouse or friend was a… jerk?… maybe he does some pretty awesome things other times. See what begins to happen as you make this a practice!
Gratitude is a small change that yields big kickbacks as you learn to Love Your Life just a little more! Make it a game: see how many things you can find to be grateful for in a day!