Five Ways Thankfulness Improves Spiritual, Mental and Physical Health

Five Ways Thankfulness Improves Spiritual, Mental and Physical Health

Laurie Campbell

Five ways thankfullness improves spiritual mental physical health

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to bring more gratitude and peace of mind into your life. It can last through the holidays and on into the new year. Studies have shown that being grateful improves mental health. And, because the spirit communicates through our heart and mind, thinking of blessings to be grateful for and carrying an attitude of gratitude increases spiritual connectedness.

Giacomo Bono, PhD, from Cal State found that “Gratitude played an important role in many areas of positive mental health of the teens in our study”. Gratitude helps in a multitude of ways, including the following:

1. Anxiety and depression can be diminished, to varying degrees. Thinking of the positives in life helps replace and relieve worry, stress, melancholy, and other negative emotions. Even when symptoms are severe, some relief can be found by making a conscious effort to consider whatever blessings can be counted and calling forth a sense of gratitude for them.

2. Optimism and overall life satisfaction improve. One study was performed by asking half of the participants to write down things they were grateful for and the other group wrote down irritations. After 10 weeks, the grateful group felt more optimistic and better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also had fewer doctor visits.

3. An increase in gratitude, optimism, and physical health are connected. As Lisa Aspinwall, PhD, from the University of Utah observed, “There are some very interesting studies linking optimism to better immune function.” In addition, the people who were more grateful were also more likely to exercise.

4. Negative events can be perceived and experienced more positively. For instance, if someone is injured in an accident, there are difficult challenges. However, gratitude that injuries weren’t more severe can actually help increase the rate of healing and the overall outcome. Researchers discovered that the people who suffered a heart attack and felt grateful to still be alive found gains from the experience and were less likely to suffer another heart attack than those who didn’t feel grateful.

5. Raise your “set-point” to increase overall happiness. Genetics plays an important role in happiness, or the lack thereof. It has been found that people have a certain set point of happiness, which is the level of happiness they return to, in time, after good or bad events occur. Research has also shown that this set point can be raised with an increase in gratitude.

Think of Thanksgiving as a daily activity throughout the year, as well as a sacred holiday. Write down the positives, or at least take time to honor them by counting your blessings and feeling gratitude for them. Pray and/or meditate upon them. This will lift your spirits, along with your mind and your body.

Laurie Campbell has a masters degree in mental health counseling, not to mention a “doctorate,” of sorts, in repentance because of the many mistakes and challenges she has faced. She is deeply grateful for a patient and loving Father in Heaven.

Choosing Mindfulness

Choosing Mindfulness

By Camille Ward, FaithCounts.com Contributor

choosing-mindfulnessEven when sitting still, I feel like I live in a perpetual whirlwind of chaos. On particularly stressful days I find myself pulling my coat tighter and tighter, as if it were the only thing holding me together. I’m not just bad at mindfulness, I’m downright terrible at it.

Sounds like I could use some time in mindful meditation, right? But that would take even more time out of my day.

Maybe that’s the point. Time out.

I’ve begun to realize that I’ve been thinking about mindfulness all wrong. Mindful meditation isn’t about putting another item on the schedule, but about taking things off. All of us need a time out at some point. Meditation allows us to step out of life to practice…for life.

We arrive to life in a shocking explosion of cold and noise and pain. No crash course. No manual. We’re expected to wing it from day one. And it just keeps getting crazier. Yet when the opportunity actually comes along to practice for this circus we call life, we pass it by because we’re too busy. But life, like any other skill, requires a mastering of the basics: The ballerina’s first position, the bassist’s scales, the ball player’s swing. And a brain’s mindset.

Mindful meditation isn’t the goal. It’s the practice. Our goal is a mindful life.

When meditating, we focus on the sensations of the present, allowing distracting thoughts to come and go without judgment. By practicing the skills we need to make the most of life we learn to experience life intentionally and observe and accept change without fear. Hopefully we emerge to find ourselves more content, peaceful, and ready to face life.

Of course, none of these things are useful if we dive back in with the same attitude we had before meditation. We have to learn to apply mindfulness to our life as a whole.

Worry is the opposite of mindfulness. All of us have fruitless worries that clutter up our lives. They pull us into the future, prevent us from engaging with the present, and manage to be exhausting without actually accomplishing anything besides making us unhappy.

In an effort to live more mindfully, I’ve begun my week by listing 5 concerns that I am consciously choosing NOT to worry about:

  • Finding a new apartment next year.
  • Finding gifts for my friends’ unborn children (who aren’t due until July…).
  • If people think I’m lazy because I need naps.
  • If the weather will keep me from getting to work this week.
  • Whether or not I’m ever going to get married.

Okay. That list was kind of hard. But also very relieving. While some of my worries made me feel silly or vulnerable, writing them out helped me remember that most of them aren’t even in my control. They’re real worries, but they interfere with living a happy life. This week, instead of stressing over those things, I’ve been enjoying where I am now. So far it’s felt great.

What about you? What 5 worries are you going to reject? Share in the comments below or on social media, using #faithcounts.

Camille Ward is a student of English Education at BYU. She loves to spend time with her family and is not to be trusted with a budget in bookstores or bakeries.