Thinking about Thanksgiving prompted me to write this blog. I saved it to my computer, planning to post it online as soon as I got a chance. Then coincidentally I heard a radio interview with psychologist Robert Emmons, author of a book called Thanks. Emmons has spent years studying positive psychology, and in the interview he pointed out that gratitude is more than a tool for self-improvement. “Gratitude is a way of life,” he said, noting how being grateful can improve your health physically as well as mentally.
After listening attentively to the interview, I felt validated in this advice I’d written:
Celebrating our thankfulness once a year as a nation is great, but I believe that being thankful is a habit we should all incorporate into our daily lives. Having gratitude — and focusing on our gratitude — can be a life-altering, healthy practice!
We tend to take care of those things we really appreciate and respect the most, and that should include our bodies. In our society, we are often trained to focus on the things that are wrong with our bodies, or that don’t live up to a fictitious ideal. But what about what is right with our bodies, what our bodies can accomplish, and what works with our bodies? If you can train your mind to focus on the positive things about your body, your whole attitude, and ultimately your journey towards a healthy and fit lifestyle, can transform.
Here’s a little exercise I share with clients to help adjust their attitude when they are in the mode of constantly cutting themselves down:
- Take five minutes and write down at least 15 things you are thankful for about your body. And don’t say you can’t think of anything! It can be as simple as, “I’ve got good eyesight,” or more specific, such as, “I can run a mile.” No matter what shape your body is in or what fitness level you are at currently, you can find things to be thankful for. Try to focus on things you appreciate about your body instead of your complaints; write down things like “I like the color of my hair” or “I am strong enough to pick up my toddler.” Hopefully you can write down more than 15 things!
- Tape this list to your mirror. For the next month, review this list every time you look in the mirror to remind yourself about just how incredible your body is … and to start believing it!
You see, whether you are an accomplished athlete or just starting a fitness program, you have things to be thankful for when it comes to your body. It might take some practice for you to start focusing on them, but when you do start looking at your body in a positive light you will start feeling motivated to improve your health and to take care of yourself.
A lot of people actually make it a habit to come up with things they are thankful for every day before bed or upon waking. Just like any other habit, it may be hard to get used to at first, but after a while it becomes a way of life. And being thankful is an important part of life — I remind my kids of this every day.