The Mind-Body Connection: Gratitude Can Be a Healing Force in Your Life

Author: Dr. Charles P. Bosmajian, Jr. is a psychologist at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology.

People who practice gratitude on a regular basis are frequently found to be happier than those who simply take things for granted. Focusing on those things for which we can be grateful is part of the “mind-body” connection—the idea that our view of the world has powerful effects on our happiness, health and sense of well-being.

Gratitude is a positive emotion that occurs when you understand and acknowledge that many of the positive experiences you have in life, small or large, are not owed to you, but are gifts. It is the opposite of taking things for granted. The experience of gratitude on a regular basis has been shown to have very positive effects on enthusiasm, energy and well-being. Because of the positive benefits of gratitude on health and happiness, it is important to bring the regular practice of gratitude into your life.

There are a number of things you can do to increase your sense of gratitude every day. Make it a priority to build these simple exercises into your life on a regular basis.

Use a Daily Gratitude Journal
A Gratitude Journal allows you additional practice focusing on the positive things that occur in your life on a daily basis. It’s a good idea to make this a special exercise by purchasing an inexpensive journal that you can use just for this purpose. Every day take a few minutes to identify five things you are grateful for. Your entries can be short or long, it doesn’t matter. Make a commitment to do this for at least two weeks, but it will serve you best if you make it a lifelong habit. The key to doing this successfully is to never repeat an entry. Each new entry has to be different. You will find that this helps you to pay attention to many of the small gifts that come into your life each day.

If you have children in your life, make it a practice to discuss gratitude on a daily basis. Help them to create their own Gratitude Journal. Share your entries with one another when appropriate and help guide the child in identifying daily events for which to be thankful.

Create a Short Prayer or Affirmation Concerning the Gifts You Have Received
Use a short prayer or affirmation on a daily basis to remind yourself that even though you have worked and planned for what you have, life could have turned out differently. Sometimes when things are going badly it’s difficult to think of things to be grateful for. However, if you look back on your life you will find that even life’s struggles can teach positive lessons. If you’re feeling regretful, angry, hurt, or resentful over stressors you’ve encountered, consider something like this:

“I am thankful for the struggles in my life, for they are my teachers.”

If you have difficulty creating a short prayer or affirmation, spend some time looking for inspiration in books of faith, poetry or philosophy. Remember to keep it short and meaningful to you.

Gratitude is a powerful emotional experience that can have a significant impact on your health and well-being. It can also serve to cement the bonds you have with people you care about and who care about you. Being constantly aware of the positive people and events in your life is a powerful tool in becoming a more resilient person.