Gratitude Heals

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I’m sending you blessings as Thanksgiving is almost here in the USA. I wanted to write about how important gratitude is, especially if there are things in your life that make it hard to be grateful sometimes. I sat down to write, and I kept coming back to an amazing and encouraging post by my counselor friend, Jennifer Christian, M.A. who lives in Texas. Her words about the practice of gratitude in our life are pure gold, and I asked her if I could share her post with you. She graciously said, “yes”. She has so many amazing articles and resources on her website I would encourage you to check out www.jenniferchristiancounseling.com.

Thanks Jennifer for your warm words of encouragement and hope

“With Thanksgiving around the corner, I thought it would be a nice time to focus on the healing benefits of a gratitude practice. I experienced an impact when my husband and I decided to start an active gratitude practice about five years ago. Over time we noticed subtle changes in our home, stress levels, and marriage. Recently, I spoke to a group about the benefits of gratitude in a marriage relationship. My teenage son happened to be in attendance. During the comments time he told the group about the positive difference he noticed in our family. He said he could tell a difference in the way my husband and I related to one another. It was incredible to hear our son share his own experience of our decision to practice gratitude as a couple.

Gratitude Nourishes the Brain

An active gratitude practice has the power to change the way we think and feel. According to neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson, where we choose to place our focus has the power to shape our brains.

“If you rest your mind on self-criticism, worries, grumbling about others, hurts, and stress, then your brain will be shaped into greater reactivity, vulnerability to anxiety and depressed mood, a narrow focus on threats and losses, and inclinations toward anger, sadness and guilt. On the other hand, if you rest your mind on good events and conditions (someone was nice to you, or there’s a roof over your head), pleasant feelings, the things you do get done, physical pleasures, and your good intentions and qualities, then over time your brain will take on a different shape, one with strength and resilience hardwired into it, as well as a realistically optimistic outlook, a positive mood, and a sense of worth.” (Hanson, 2013)

Gratitude Builds Resilience to Stress

Over the past few months I paired my gratitude practice with an app called the Heartmath Inner Balance Trainer. The Inner Balance Trainer has a heart rate monitor that works with a smart phone or tablet to guides your breath while it monitors your heart rate. As you breathe, you bring to mind gratitude and thoughts of compassion. The science of Heartmath has shown a powerful correlation to our heart rhythm pattern and our emotions:

“When we experience uplifting emotions such as gratitude, joy, compassion, and love; our heart rhythm pattern becomes highly ordered, looking like a smooth, harmonious wave. It’s no wonder that positive emotions feel so good – they actually help our body’s systems synchronize and work better.

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During stress and negative emotions, when the heart rhythm pattern is erratic and disordered, the corresponding pattern of neural signals traveling from the heart to the brain inhibits higher cognitive functions. This limits our ability to think clearly, remember, learn, reason, and make effective decisions. The heart’s input to the brain during stressful or negative emotions also has a profound effect on the brain’s emotional processes – actually serving to reinforce the emotional experience of stress.” (www.heartmath.com/innerbalance/)

Gratitude Over the Holidays

The holidays add stress to our normal daily routines. In my last blog post, I discussed how “turning down the thermometer” on stress can create balance, especially since practicing gratitude has proven to reduce stress. The article “Seven Powerful Ways Gratitude Can Change Your Life” shows multiple ways this practice can enhance your health and your relationships.

I wish you and your families a grateful Thanksgiving. Thank you for your continued encouragement and support of Jennifer Christian Counseling. I am deeply thankful.

Hanson, Rick, Ph.D. (2013). Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence”.

Thanks so much Jennifer for allowing me to share your wisdom on my blog today…

I would love to get your input

What was your reaction when you read about the benefits of practicing gratitude?   When is it most difficult to be grateful?   What are some ways you’d like to practice gratitude this week ?

Please leave your comments below and share on social media or via e-mail with others who might benefit!

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8 thoughts on “Gratitude Heals

  1. Good morning!
    What a timely and appropriate message to share with us. It rings true, especially for me with all that has been going on over the past months. I have continued to keep my One Thousand Gifts journal based on a Life Group study that has been very helpful in reminding me to recognize the many gifts (blessings) of each day. Never has my daily coffee mug from my daughter and son-in-love meant more to me than now. It has JOY on one side and Nehemiah 8:10, …for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” on the other. I am also reminded of Psalm 118:24 “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Joy and gratitude go hand in hand. Even in the toughest times I can rejoice in the fact that God is going through it with me and I am never alone.
    May your Thanksgiving be blessed. YOU are a blessing in my life!

    1. Ann, Thanks for your encouraging comments. I’m so glad that you have such wonderful ways of remaining positive and grateful for all of God’s blessing amidst life’s challenges. Loved what you wrote, ” Joy and gratitude go hand in hand. Even in the toughest times I can rejoice in the fact that God is going through it with me and I am never alone”. So encouraging…thanks so much for your words and the verses you shared. You are a blessing to me! Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving too!

  2. Hi Kim,
    That is so great that positive emotions has an effect on the harmony of functions in our bodies. I’m thankful for the reminders you share that help bring a positive light to life circumstances.

    1. Thanks Emily! It is such good news there are practical and easy things we can do to calm our bodies when distressed. So nice to hear from you!

  3. This is a wonderful reminder of the power of gratitude. I have been working on correct thinking, but what a very concrete way to work on these changes. Thank you!

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