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.

5 Surprising Ways Running Can Be Your Spiritual Practice

5 Surprising Ways Running Can Be Your Spiritual Practice

By Mike Fitzgerald, FaithCounts.com Contributor

runningA few years ago, three wake-up calls got my attention. My brother died of cancer, and I was reminded of how important it is to honor and care for our bodies. Not long after that, an acquaintance announced on Facebook that he had walked a mile on his treadmill, in just over an hour—quite a feat considering he was paralyzed with lupus. Then I discovered that a friend in his 70s, who moved like a man half his age, was running four full marathons a year.

These experiences taught me that I wasn’t doing enough to respect my body. I knew it was time to make some changes. I’d admired runners from a distance, but I was afraid to ask my body to pay in sweat. Deep down, I had the ability to run, and I knew it would be great adventure for me, so why wasn’t I doing it?

After thinking about all this for many months, one winter morning, I pulled on an old pair of gray sweatpants, laced up my athletic shoes, and forced myself into the biting January air. I only ran about a mile that day—by sheer force of will. But it felt good afterward and I wanted to do it again.

Running has become part of the natural rhythm of my life. I ran two half marathons this year, besting my time each race. I’ve shed 20 pounds and kept them off for several years. I’ve picked up a lot of obvious health benefits from running and I’ve also gained some not-so-obvious spiritual benefits. Here are five things I’ve learned from running that have helped me go deeper spiritually.

1. Running Helps Me Believe in Myself

Why not have faith in yourself? I’m not talking about being arrogant or self-centered, but holding a straight-out belief that you can expect better things out of yourself. I’ve been dancing with a dodgy disease for over a decade, so when I first got started, running a competitive race seemed only remotely possible. But I’ve run 11 races since I started running again. I’m staring that disease down every day, challenging it with faith in myself and in the resilience of my body. And it’s working.

2. Running Helps Me Believe in Something Bigger Than Myself

Left to its own devices, your body will always want the shortcut. Unchecked it will lunge at corner-store junk food, fling itself on the couch, watch mindless television for hours, glut on weekend-long video games, or plead for something worse. But you are more than your body. There is something infinite inside of you that longs to express itself. Turn off the greed gland and you’ll be able to reach for something higher.

3. Running Heals Me

After a few weeks of getting on my feet and peeling the mattress off my back, my body chemistry changed. My body longed to get out and run and started reminding me to do that often. It liked my lower blood pressure, the lost pounds, and the regular endorphin high. And when I really listened to it, my body steered me toward real food, not the imitation stuff. I’ve started to heal and it feels good.

4. Running Amps Up My Meditation

Lots of runners like to listen to music when they run, but I rarely do. I’ve found my thinking is more clear when I’m running than at any other time, and I’m more open to new ways of looking at the world. I listen to my body and to my inner self. I sort through problems and discover solutions. Almost without fail, I come back home with a feeling of peace and a better sense of balance and well-being.

5. Running Inspires Me to Worship

I’ve gotten in the habit of offering a lot of thanks when I’m running. As I take in the beauty of the world and the miracle of the human body, I can’t hold back the sincere, overwhelming sense of gratitude I have for God’s gifts. Running time is a time I feel connected my Higher Power. With new spring in my feet, I feel a oneness with heaven. It’s helped me come face-to-face with who I really am, and the better I know my true self, the closer I feel to God.

Running, to me, is more of a spiritual practice than a physical one. It has taken me places I didn’t think I could ever go again. It’s a path of peace I won’t be stepping off soon.

Michael Fitzgerald is a husband and lover of all things outdoors. You can reach him at www.michaeljamesfitzgerald.com.