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  • Writer's pictureMark Thomson

The Gratitude Prescription: Healing Mind, Body, and Spirit



 

I have plenty of days where things don’t go right and I’m sure you have as well. 

 

Perhaps the boiler broke down or you’ve had an argument with your boss, or your child is teething. Maybe you’ve just woken up grumpy.

 

So why would you want to be grateful? And why did Mikao Usui, the Japanese founder of Reiki, make gratitude one of the five principles he considered key to living a spiritual life?

 

Gratitude makes you more positive

 

One sure way I’ve found to quickly feel more positive is listing what I’m grateful for. It can be anything at all – being alive, the food I eat, a friend, having an umbrella in the rain, my phone – anything I am grateful for. 

 

I find it impossible to be resentful or envious at the same time as I am feeling grateful. Gratitude blocks negative emotions that can destroy our happiness.

 

It doesn’t matter what it is or where I am. I recall five things I’m grateful for and almost immediately it starts to lift me into feeling more positive. And there’s plenty of science to back that up.

 

Robert Emmons, a leading scientific expert on gratitude, explains that it benefits our mental, physical, and social health. That’s because it magnifies the impact of our positive feelings and experiences as we affirm that there are good things we've received.

 

Of course it’s not about pretending life is perfect or that you have to like everything. It's about taking a moment to recognise what's going well, even during challenges.

 

I am a licensed Louise Hay life coach and use her techniques because they help people create better lives for themselves. Gratitude is important for her as this quote from her book, Gratitude: A Way of Life, illustrates. “Let’s spend as many moments as we can every day being grateful for all the good that is in our lives. If you have little in your life now it will increase. If you have an abundant life now it will increase. Gratitude increases your abundance.”

 

Because gratitude has so many benefits I find time every day to be grateful for some of the many blessings I enjoy. And I ask almost all my clients, whether they’ve come for hypnotherapy, life coaching or Reiki, to start practising it so they can benefit too.

 

Gratitude improves your mental health

 

Science has become interested in gratitude because people who practise it measurably improve their lives.

 

In the past 30 years research has demonstrated the ability of gratitude to:

·        foster resilience

·        help people manage their emotions better

·        feel more satisfied with their lives

·        increase joy and optimism

·        reduce anxiety and depression

 

Grateful individuals bounce back more effectively from adversity. When faced with setbacks, gratitude helps you reframe the situation. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, you also focus on what you’ve learned or gained, and see the silver lining.

 

For example I’m not grateful my wife and mother died. However, I am grateful that I’m more compassionate than I was before, and that bereavement led me into a new and more fulfilling career.

 

Grateful people are more likely to seek support from others. They manage their emotions better. They experience negative emotions but also recognize positive aspects, maintaining emotional balance.

 

Grateful people tend to be more optimistic. They focus on what’s going well rather than dwelling on negatives. Optimism also contributes to better mental health and resilience.

 

Gratitude improves your relationships

 

When you express your appreciation for someone you care about it deepens your emotional bond and fosters intimacy. Acknowledging their positive actions encourages the other person to continue to be supportive and creates a sense of closeness and trust.

 

When both people feel appreciated, they’re more likely to invest in the relationship and work through challenges together. They feel happier, more content and are more likely to be kind and generous to each other and provide emotional support.

 

It’s like watering a plant, regular gratitude keeps the relationship healthy and thriving. And it takes you out of the blame game, which is so destructive.

 

According to Robert Emmons gratitude strengthens our relationships, "because it requires us to see how we've been supported and affirmed by other people."

 

In one of his studies participants completing gratitude exercises offered other people more emotional support than those who didn’t do the exercises. So gratitude moves you to act for the greater good, not just for your own benefit.

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Expressing gratitude isn’t just politeness; it’s a powerful tool to build and maintain meaningful relationships. So, take a moment to appreciate those you care about, it’s a gift that keeps on giving. And it stops us falling into the trap of taking the other for granted or getting stuck in resentment.

 

How gratitude changes your brain

 

Neurological research demonstrates that expressing gratitude releases chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. These play crucial roles in mood regulation and overall mental health.

 

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in various functions, including pleasure, reward, motivation, and attention. It helps you feel good and when you feel good, you are more likely to spread your positivity to those around you.

 

Gratitude also increases serotonin production which contributes to feelings of well-being, stabilises your mood, and helps you feel more relaxed.

 

Gratitude improves your physical health

 

There is also a profound connection between gratitude and physical health. Studies suggest that practising gratitude:

·        correlates with a reduced risk of heart disease

·        strengthens the immune system

·        improves the overall resilience to illness

·        reduces stress and stress hormones such as cortisol, which contribute to inflammation and chronic disease

·        promotes relaxation

 

And cultivating gratitude fosters a mindset more likely to make healthier lifestyle choices. For instance keeping a gratitude journal before bedtime can lead to better sleep. Reflecting on positive experiences helps calm the mind and promotes restful sleep. So instead of counting sheep, try counting your blessings instead.

 

Ways to practice gratitude.

 

I know how life changing gratitude can be. One of my spiritual mentors asked me to keep a gratitude journal. Every day I had to write 10 new things in it I was grateful for. 

 

It quickly became apparent how much I took for granted. I’m surrounded by what another age might consider miracles – the sun rising, my mobile phone, being able to fly, decent dentistry. An amazing miracle was that I saw how petty most of my grievances were.

 

Of course, it’s easy to be grateful for the ‘good’ things like a pay rise or falling in love. But adding ten additional items on my gratitude list every day meant I learnt to be grateful for the trickier situations.

 

As Louise Hay puts it: “I now rejoice when I see another portion of the dark side of myself. It means I’m ready to let go of something that has been hindering my life. I say, “thank you for showing me this so I can heal it and move on.””

 

And practising gratitude doesn’t have to take much time, it’s more important to do it little and often. So here’s some simple ideas you might like to try:

·        Every day write down five things you are grateful for.

·        If you find yourself in a ‘bad’ mood think of five blessings you have and see what happens to your emotional state.

  • During transitions in the day, like work breaks, when you get home, or before bed, take a minute to think about what went well.

  • Tell someone you love them and appreciate them.

  • Say thank you in a heartfelt way

·        Tell your spouse, partner, or child something you appreciate about them every day.

·        Appreciate the beauty of nature.

·        Make time to connect with your friends, listen to them, and show your concern.

·        Smiling is an effortless way to foster gratitude and optimism.

·        Appreciate yourself. Remind yourself of your strengths, blessings, and the positive aspects of your life.

·        Post a message of appreciation on social media to spread positivity and gratitude.

 

These might seem small actions, but they can strongly affect how we feel. They train us to see the bright side of life, making us happier and more optimistic.

 

And as a Reiki teacher and healer I understand why Mikao Usui made gratitude one of the five principles he asked Reiki students to follow as part of their spiritual development. It’s a quick and effective way to raise our vibration, and the vibration of those around us.

 

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