When your health is less than ideal, and it feels like you’re on a constant downward path, you may find it difficult to express gratitude.
I’ve been there and I get it. When you don’t feel good it’s hard to find and appreciate the good things in life when it feels like the dark cloud just keeps getting darker.
Here’s the good news.
With functional medicine you can get to the root of why you feel so bad. By finding the root causes of your autoimmune condition you can see your life turn around (sometimes quicker than you thought possible).
You may be thinking that this sounds great…but what does this have to do with gratitude?
Feeling and expressing gratitude may directly influence how you feel everyday…and it may help you heal more quickly.
Scientific research has shown that finding and appreciating things in your life can help you feel better.
You may be thinking this feels a little touchy-feely, overly simplistic and a big stretch. Can having a gratitude practice really improve your autoimmune condition?
Let me be very clear. Gratitude won’t fix your health.
When you want to reverse the symptoms and progression of your autoimmune disease you need root cause medicine…not a gratitude practice.
Practicing gratitude doesn’t fix things but it can directly influence how you feel. It can be one of the many tools in your toolbox as you step into a healthier life.
Feeling gratitude in your life shifts your mindset, lowers your stress levels, and helps your body heal….and science suggests this can take as little as 5 minutes a day. (1)
Here’s what the science says.
#1: Practicing Gratitude May Lower Inflammation
Chronic inflammation directly influences how you feel.
Inflammation can directly trigger an autoimmune disease to develop and it can worsen the symptoms and progression of your condition. (2)
Anything you can do to reduce your overall inflammation and induce anti-inflammatory mechanisms in your body will help you feel better and slow down the progression of your autoimmune disease.
In a study by the Chopra Foundation, it was concluded that having a gratitude practice lowered inflammatory markers in the body. This happened within 8 weeks of having a 5 minute daily gratitude practice. (3)
Other studies have linked gratitude with lower levels of C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), an inflammatory marker in the body that is often elevated in patient with autoimmune conditions. (4)
#2: Practicing Gratitude May Improve Your Sleep
If you’re not sleeping well, you’re not healing well.
Your body’s healing mechanisms are most active at night so doing what you can to sleep well every-single-night is essential. Even small improvements to your sleep can make a big difference in how you show up everyday.
Having a nightly gratitude practice has been highly correlated with improved sleep quality. Feeling grateful before you go to sleep can dramatically shift your mindset which can influence how well you sleep. (5)
Studies have shown that just having a higher perception of gratitude (not even a gratitude practice) was correlated with better sleep and less fatigue and pain during the day. (6)
Even more encouraging (especially if you like to see quick results) is that another study suggested that it took just two weeks to see a noticeable difference in sleep quality when participants added a gratitude practice. (7)
#3: Practicing Gratitude May Reduce Your Stress Levels
From a functional medicine perspective, stress is one of the root causes of autoimmune disease.
Chronic stress triggers inflammation in your body, puts strain on your immune system, and lowers your body’s ability to heal. It can also make you more susceptible to a leaky gut and chronic infections (another root cause).
It’s not easy but including ways to reduce stress in your life is an important part of your healing process. (Easier said than done, I know!)
Finding things to be grateful for when life feels overwhelming and full of stress can greatly shift your perception.
Studies have shown that having a gratitude practice can decrease perceived levels of stress over time and going further, this was also correlated with lower levels of depression. (8)
#4: Practicing Gratitude May Improve Your Mood
When you don’t feel your best you may be prone to low moods, depression or anxiety. That’s completely understandable especially if you’re not seeing the positive shifts in your health you’re hoping for.
It can be hard to remain optimistic and hopeful when it seems like your life and health is constantly on a downward trend.
Perhaps more than anything listed, there is a tremendous amount of research that correlates feelings of gratitude with lower levels of depression and higher satisfaction with life…even when your circumstances are less than ideal. (9)
Next time you’re feeling down, take a few minutes to think of at least 5 things you’re grateful for. Feel a deep appreciation in your heart for those things and see if it shifts your mood and outlook (even just a tiny bit).
#5: Practicing Gratitude May Help You Overcome Trauma
Trauma and autoimmune conditions are intimately linked. Many autoimmune experts believe that working to heal the trauma you’ve experienced in your life is a critically important step toward healing.
Trauma comes in many forms. It’s often correlated with childhood experiences, sexual trauma, or major life events (such as a death of a loved one or a tragedy). However, it’s common to experience trauma around having a chronic illness. (10)
The difficulties and challenges that come with having an autoimmune disease can be very traumatic and you may experience great relief when you address this with your healthcare team.
Studies have suggested that a gratitude practice may help you recover more quickly from traumatic experiences. (11)
Some Final Thoughts…
Simply put, incorporating a daily gratitude practice may directly improve your health.
And while it may not provide the huge shifts you crave (only addressing the root causes can do that). Science suggests that a gratitude practice can improve your overall well-being and create subtle positive shifts in your health.
Practicing gratitude is an easy intervention. It doesn’t involve lots of preparation time, it doesn’t cost any money and it comes with virtually no negative side effects.
In as little as 5 minutes a day, you can begin to increase your feelings of gratitude, appreciation, thankfulness and optimism.
Start simple. It may be something as simplistic as expressing gratitude for a warm blanket, a snuggle from your pet, or warm sunshine on your face.
Want to begin a gratitude practice but not sure where to start? Ask me your questions and I’d be glad to help.