A spoonful of gratitude: how meditation can make you healthier & happier
The most powerful solutions to life’s problems are often the simplest. As a result, we dismiss them as obvious and unworthy of serious attention. But what if you could de-stress, boost your immune system and invite more joy into your life with two little words?
For too long, we’ve taken ‘thank you’ for granted. And we shouldn’t, because the simple act of feeling appreciative for the good things in your life can give you a serious health boost.
Benefits of gratitude
Thankfulness improves mental, and ultimately, physical health, recent studies have shown. Better mood, higher energy levels, decreased blood pressure and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health. A more grateful heart is indeed a more healthy heart.
As well as helping us bounce back from stress, being thankful can boost our careers by increasing productivity. It makes us more trusting, reducing negative emotions such as jealousy, greed and fear. This can deepen existing relationships - and actually make you more attractive. What’s not to love?
Secrets to a thankful life
You may have heard the phrase, ‘we are what we repeatedly do’. And it’s one we should all live by. It takes three weeks to start a new habit; for the synaptic pathways in our brains to get used to a behaviour and for it to become natural.
By mentally acknowledging the good things in your life, you unwire any negative patterns and put a brighter filter on each day. As a starting point, set aside a quiet meditation time - free of any distractions - to reflect on some of the things you’re thankful for. They can be material things, friends, family, lovers, your own unique self and even the beauty of the world you live in.
Here’s a simple example of gratitude meditation you can try today:
- Get into a comfortable position - this could be propped with a cushion on the sofa, or sitting cross-legged with your back straight. Close your eyes gently.
- Bring awareness to the sounds around you, then to your body. Relax the feet, shoulder and stomach, let your arms go floppy and let your jaw hang loose.
- Focus on your breath, then begin consciously bringing to mind the things you are grateful for. From the kindness of a stranger you encountered that day, to the unconditional love of your dog - or those delicious pancakes your partner whips up every Sunday.
- Between each thankful thought, say to yourself ‘thank you’.
- Breathe into your heart, feeling the emotional power of thankfulness move through your entire body.
- You may like to think about ways you will express this thankfulness in the coming days or week, before coming back to the mindfulness of your body and breath.
- If it feels right for you, bring your hands together in front of your heart and say ‘thank you for this life’.
- When you are ready, slowly and gently open your eyes.
If you’re still unsure how to get started, a guided meditation like this one can give you gratitude prompts to think about. Or you may like to try reading this gratitude passage to yourself or out loud, adapting each point to your own life.
Adopting an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body. When you focus repeatedly on something that feels good, your brain rewires itself to do that more effortlessly in the future, making you both happier and healthier. Thank you, thankfulness.