Imagine if Thanksgiving helped your diet? What if starting a tradition of gratitude resulted in becoming thinner? Well, it just might be possible. According to Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis and the founder a research lab that studies the effects of grateful living found in a 2003 research study that participants who took time weekly to reflect on things for which they were grateful reported fewer symptoms of physical illness and spent more time exercising.

gratitude and weight loss

There are other weight management benefits to gratitude as well. A study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 2015 found that people who took part in a diary exercise twice a week asking them to document people and things that helped them at work reduced their stress and depressive symptoms significantly. Stress creates cortisol and we have been told how cortisol adds weight to our bodies.

It is often quoted that what we most think about is what we become. Our self-talk tends to be negative and critical, so guess what we become?  If you spend your day thinking about how fat you are, how much you hate yourself and how deprived you feel by your current diet, then you will amplify those miserable feelings. Complaining will inevitably create even more circumstances to despise.

Furthermore, negative thinking can lead to less ability to cope with any annoyances, thus creating a bad day. On a bad day, we will often make the excuse that we have “earned” whatever fattening goodie we consume. If instead, you have turned your thoughts to gratitude, you have more fortitude! It becomes easier to stop before you bite. Feelings of serenity and quiet joy make it easier to brew a cup of tea rather than guzzle a high-calorie chocolate shake and a couple of cookies.

If we are grateful for our food, we are more likely to take the time to savor it. Angry eating or conciliatory eating both tend to be fast eating, which means we consume a whole lot more food before the full signal goes off, if we even listen to the signal!

How to practice gratitude? Manypeople enjoy keeping a gratitude journal. The act of writing down a grateful thought is powerful. It is also helpful to have what has been written down in the past in those “not so grateful” moments. Saying Grace before eating is not only a nice Spiritual practice, it also slows you down, allows you to take a breath and appreciate the food, the person who provided the food and the abundance that it represents.

Try this little exercise:

Close your eyes and take a cleansing breath. Imagine someone for whom you are grateful. Consider what they bring to your life. Now, imagine life without ever having known that person. Allow yourself to experience this fully. Take another deep breath and then add the person back into your life. Now notice how your thoughts change and your body relaxes.

Send all the good feelings and sensations to your right hand, hold on to them. Allow any feelings of loss you may still be experiencing from not knowing that individual to be held in your left hand and then feel your hand open and release them.

Take a deep breath and relax even further. Imagine a mist of color (a favorite color) entering the area you are in and allow yourself to breath the color in. That color now reminds you of the person you are appreciating and the gratitude you feel for them. Breathe in the good feelings, add the color and now add a favorite scent, perhaps the cologne they wear, maybe something special from childhood. Bask in the sensations, make them as real and as intense as you can. Then just relax.

Anytime you see the color from your mediation, stop to take a deep breath and recall the gratitude you feel for that person.

More and more I see the hashtag First World Problems. It is a humorous look at ourselves, after all people often say that we in western modern societies have it really easy. For example:  A possible infection, another root canal and the removal of two wisdom teeth; starting to look like a fabulous summer #firstworldproblems, or this: I’ve received new honors from my college, so the old resumes I have printed are useless now. #FirstWorldProblems.  Someone worrying about which job offer he is going to take might seem frivolous to a man who’s wondering if he’ll be alive tomorrow, or whether he can feed his family for another week.
When we are suddenly facing real problems, we often start to wonder how we could ever have been so worked up about what we thought were problems before. Why did we spend so much time worrying and fretting that we could have spent enjoying? Still, if during that time we are given the adage, there are people who are much worse off than you, it feels flippant. Harken back to the times our parents told us we should be grateful for our least favorite dinner, after all, there are children starving in Africa. I didn’t know a kid who didn’t wish they could ship that meal off to the starving!
I once heard a therapist suggest that her sister in another war torn country had real problems, so the client she was seeing should be grateful that being left by her husband with small children to support is all she had to deal with.  How did that make the client feel? Guilty as well as terrified, hurt and unappreciated would be my guess.
You can be sure that the client she was speaking to was not unaware of human trafficking  or war or starvation that goes on around the world, still that awareness didn’t make a difference to her because she was living her life.
The fact is that fear, anxiety and hopelessness are correlated with life circumstances, but only up to a point.  Living in a nice safe environment is also correlated with feeling safe and secure, but the correlation isn’t as exact as you might think. You see, fear is fear, whether it’s fear of starvation or fear of riding an elevator to your office. Someone who is frightened or depressed in an outwardly perfectly safe and secure environment still feels as if they are living an unsafe life.
Furthermore, recent research has shown that only 10% of our happiness is due to our external circumstances. A full 90% is based on our inner environment.
So, I make the case that while we don’t want to trivialize anyone for their fears or worries, there is something to be said for practicing gratitude.
Over the ages, many philosophers and sages have celebrated gratitude. Many of the world’s great religions and spiritual practices, have all at various times endorsed the idea that being grateful encourages reciprocal kindness, as well as individual and collective well-being. When people focus on gratitude on a regular basis it has been found that they enjoy increased alertness, enthusiasm, optimism and energy. In one study with hundreds of participants, the gratitude group experienced less depression, exercised more regularly and made more progress towards personal goals. According to these research findings, people who feel gratitude are more likely to feel loved and respected than the non-grateful. They also showed better immune function and less physical illness!
So rather than just noting the bare fact that there are people physically worse off than us, it may be better for us to actively focus on what we do have. When we start to actually notice and appreciate that we have access to clean water, or the internet, or other people who aren’t trying to kill us we can create a shift in our awareness. Keep in mind that comparing yourself to another (she got a promotion and I didn’t even though I work just as hard as she does) will result in more bad feelings. Your bad feeling comes from focusing on what someone else has that’s more than what you have.
Next time you feel really worried or down, think of three ways in which it could be even worse. Not how someone else has it worse, but instead it might be worse for you (but isn’t). For instance, you were stood up because your friend “got a better offer”. You might think, yea that sucks and hurts being dissed, but at least I have other friends to call and chat with. Or, at least I have a great job and my kids are safe at home with me.  
Follow this by trying to imagine your life without those blessings. Imagine losing that great job and being unable to get another in the foreseeable future or having your kids being taken away from you. Take time to imagine what that might look like, how that might feel if you didn’t have those blessings. Do this for a few moments to get the impact of how things might have been. Just be sure that you are focused on a blessing you truly appreciate and not the thing that started this downward spiral in the first place. Be sure what you focus on is something that, while it would be worse, it is not likely to ever occur. So, if anything has been of concern (you are concerned that your kids will be taken by an angry ex for example) eliminate that one from your imagining.


Try this, then go back to feeling the gratitude for those blessings. Really spend a few moments enjoying the benefits in your life of living your life. Practice a smile, because it is true that it is very difficult to feel bad when smiling, even a fake smile.  To quote Young Frankenstein, “It could be worse, it could be raining.”

Today was my first in a new series of Brown Bag Lunches with the offices of Dr Cesar Lara. My topic (as the title above says) is The Benefits of Gratitude. I explain how gratitude affects our body, our mind, even our career! Then I offer ways that you can increase gratitude in your life.

The recent showing of the The Sound of Music Live! found me enthralled. It brought back so many childhood memories of seeing the Julie Andrews portrayal of Fraulein Maria and how I would sing and play in the woods near my childhood home, that I was a part of the Von Trapp group. It was magical then and it was magical again with the live presentation. 
Then I made the mistake of reading comments on social media. The news was filled with comments and rebuttals. It all seemed so sad to me. However, it also made me very aware that I am glad I am not a critic, at least the professional kind. Often, the job of a critic has seemed somewhat glamorous to me. Imagine getting paid to see the best of Broadway, movies or to eat in a variety of restaurants? I thought I would love that. This recent event has made me aware of something quite different. These folks are paid to analyze and critique every nuance of whatever it is they are reviewing. They get paid to pan things!
It is often said that we are hard wired to go to the negative. I am working in my own life on appreciation and gratitude. The news is filled everyday with stories of a bad economy, slow recovery and political fighting. People I know and love are suffering in so many ways, from health to relationships to you can fill in the blanks! An escape in the world of music, art, literature, dining, is a welcome reprieve. Yet, here these critics do their best to send me right back to noticing what is wrong!

I know it is a job and the critics are doing theirs. I am just thankful that it isn’t my job. I will continue to focus on the things in my life that I can appreciate. Being thankful that I am able to share my gratitude with my clients is just one of many of my favorite things!

Thanksgiving commemorates a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621, and is held in the US on the fourth Thursday in November. It is a day set aside to give thanks for the bounty of the previous year, although it often ends up with feasting, football and now even shopping for the upcoming holidays.  Hence, we have one day a year to express our gratitude, between these other activities. Yet, is one day a year, during commercial breaks really enough? 

Research has found that grateful people are more likely to:
-Take better care of themselves physically and mentally
-Engage in more protective health behaviors and maintenance
-Get more regular exercise
-Eat a healthier diet
-Have improved mental alertness
-Schedule regular physical examinations with their doctor
-Cope better with stress and daily challenges
-Feel happier and more optimistic
-Avoid problematic physical symptoms
-Have stronger immune systems
-Maintain a brighter view of life

So, perhaps a daily flexing of the gratitude muscle is in order. I call it a muscle to show you that gratitude is not just a feeling, if it was, we would feel it all the time. Gratitude is the combination of being gracious and one’s attitude. I want all the benefits listed above, so I decided to start daily rituals of gratitude. Daily reminders of what is right in my life as opposed to running the constant treadmill of more, more more!

Here are simple ways you can join me in this practice. 

Good Morning and Thank You!   Before you even get out of bed, take 2 minutes to reflect on whoever or whatever you are grateful for. Just a silent thank you will set the tone of your day to come.

Say Thank You.  Whenever someone does something nice, say thank you. Mean it. No matter how small, recognize the kindnesses in your life.

Write a handwritten note of thanks. How many handwritten notes have you gotten lately. If you are like most people, not many. Texting and email has replaced the art of the written note. Yet, just send out one note a day and see how good you feel. It doesn’t have to be long or fancy, after all it is the thought that counts. (Especially for you!) It can even be a note of thanks left on the desk of a co-worker or written on a bill along with the payment.

List 3 reason for gratitude at the end of your day.  Keeping a gratitude journal is easy when it is only 3 reasons at the end of the day. On the days you feel less than grateful, you have your journal as a reminder of the good things in your life.

As always, feel free to drop by my website to listen to a free audio.

Please, leave anything you do to enhance your attitude of gracious receiving in the  comments below. 

I know it is a bit late for Easter, unless of course you celebrate Greek Easter. I managed to post this on facebook and left my blog out. Mea culpa. Anyway, I do hope you enjoy this, it is brief and relaxing.

I was fascinated by this window. It let the light in, but because it was alabaster instead of glass, you could not see through it. It just seemed like an appropriate metaphor for life. How often do we see the light without seeing the full picture?

It takes a certain amount of faith to believe that even in some of our most trying times, things will work out. We determine how we want things to go and when they don’t seem to go our way, we worry that nothing will ever be OK again. We tend to determine that everything is working against us. If we stopped to review our past, that is not usually the case.

The trials I have experienced in my life are what helped me become the person I am today. In the past, during those trials, I could not see that. I ranted and raved, to no avail. Thank heavens, I did not get my way at the time. It is now my sincere desire to recall those lessons when I am faced with an obstacle.

Recently, while sitting in quiet contemplation at St Michael’s Shrine, I realized how often I have gone there to request a change. Prayer for me had become constant “I wants”. Even if the wants were for others, it was still always a want. Gratitude seemed to be missing from my prayers. I began in that moment to focus on gratitude. When things get difficult, I recall my gratitude prayers and somehow, I become calm with the knowledge that once again I will be fine.

I may not see the answers or the outcomes, but I do see the light.

Yesterday was the American holiday, Thanksgiving. I hope all who celebrated had a fabulous day with plenty to be grateful for.

We can all be grateful we weren’t at this Turkey Drop.

Have a great and relaxing weekend. Take a moment to reflect on what you are grateful for and imagine how you desire your life to be. Then, begin to allow that life to become your reality.

This is actually more like late Monday afternoon musings. Sometimes life has a way of flowing different than our plotted course. I learned long ago to stop fighting the current at those times and just flow with it.

Thanks to one and all who wished my son a happy birthday. He smiles every time I show him another comment. He won’t admit it, but I know at some level he feels important that even people he doesn’t know wish him well.

This week I have a special post coming up from an author friend of mine. She has posted once before and I hope to have even more from her. Her name is Patricia Dowdy and she is the most gentle soul. I am pleased as can be that she will again be sharing her talents with us.

Have a blessed day and evening one and all. Take a moment in the midst of all that goes on around you to think about something you are grateful for. I know it isn’t always easy to think of such things, some times it feels darn near impossible. But, if you can find just one thing, for that brief moment, you can begin your way to peace again.

We are told to visualize what we want in order to attract the right circumstances and opportunities to ourselves. This is not easy for everyone who comes into my office. Some folks are more auditory, they can hear the sweet siren call of success. Others are more kinesthetic, they just feel lucky!

I have created a little video to help me focus on my goals, to keep gratitude in my heart and remind me to affirm my blessings. I thought I would share it with you today:

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