The average time allotted by insurance companies for a medical office visit is 6 minutes. Hardly enough time to meet, greet, and write a prescription for a pill to help the current ill (or what is called “chief complaint”). Health professionals have to find ways to help their clients get the most benefit in the shortest amount of time. One of the easiest and most effective interventions I use with my patients is the practice of gratitude, or what I call adopting a “gratitude attitude.”
Science tells us that the best intervention in our age of high productivity and time efficiency is one that takes the least amount of time and yields the biggest reward. I have found this to be true in my own practice too. In my book, Solving the Autoimmune Puzzle: The Woman’s Guide to Reclaiming Emotional Freedom and Vibrant Health, I talk about a common human trait I have observed in the last 30+ years of my health care career: The Misery to Motivation Ratio. In other words, the more miserable a person is, the more motivated they will be to make the changes required to transform their illness to wellness. Believe it or not, that’s a huge advantage of feeling miserable! You are ripe for constructive change! You can turn your life around in ways that people in less pain simply don’t feel the need to.
Again, I have found that one of the most effective interventions is the practice of gratitude. Gratitude heals. And those who are feeling pain and misery will notice the benefits immediately.
Over the past decade, there have been many studies that indicate gratitude helps people who are ill move from a depressed outlook on life to a more helpful and vital one. It turns out that a person who is struggling with health issues, depression, and anxiety will gain even more benefit if they practice a gratitude attitude along with mental health counseling.
What does science say are the benefits of practicing an intentional gratitude practice?
- Gratitude is a great emotional detoxification method.
The ancient science of Ayurveda, the 10,000-year old sister science of yoga, teaches that we must digest our emotions just as we digest our foods. Ayurveda also says that what is in the mind crystallizes in the body. You can almost see what negative emotion would look like in the body if you think about it in that way. It would feel heavy and dark. In contrast, the feeling of gratitude will feel light, resilient, and flexible…exactly what we would all like to feel in our body. Don’t think for a second that how we feel doesn’t register in the body. Science has already demonstrated that, and that is exactly why it is no exaggeration to say that gratitude heals.
- Gratitude doesn’t even need to be shared to work its magic in the body.
It turns out that writing a letter of gratitude to someone who has contributed to you in your life is going to bring about changes in your immune system, brain chemicals, and brain state. These changes occur whether you send the letter or not. However, if the person you wrote the letter of appreciation to is alive, why not send it and see what happens to their brain state and immune system?
- The benefits of a gratitude practice don’t occur overnight.
The longer the practice, the bigger the benefit. The more days spent gratitude journaling, expressing gratitude, and feeling appreciation, the more health benefits are accrued. Be patient if you don’t feel fantastic after writing one letter or expressing gratitude to one person.
- Gratitude re-wires the brain for good.
fMRI scans were done on the brains of people who received psychotherapy (trauma release) and practiced a gratitude writing activity. These were compared to fMRI scans of people who did only psychotherapy. The study participants who were grateful lit up in the prefrontal cortex of the brain- the part of the brain that is required for adult decision making- like what to put on the end of your fork, what to drink, who to get into relationship with, how to manage conflict, how to spend and save money, and so on. The more grateful you are, the better you are at “adulting” and the healthier your choices will be.
Generous Are Those Who Are Grateful
It turns out that the more grateful you are, the more generous you are too. All of these acts of positive emotion lead to an immune system that feels positively toward you. In other words, it helps to reverse autoimmune disease. Gratitude heals.
If you want to learn more about reversing autoimmune disease and other chronic illnesses, you can work with Dr. Keesha 1:1, participate in her autoimmune deep immersion retreats, take a DIY approach with her online programs, or train with Dr. Keesha through the Academy for Integrative Medicine health coach certification program and learn how to not only work with functional medicine labs/nutrition, Ayurvedic medicine, but also how to help others heal their emotional root causes for illness. You can find information at www.DrKeesha.com .
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