The Benefits Of Gratitude

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There are many benefits of being grateful. According to “the experts” (whoever that is) people who regularly practice gratitude have:

Higher self-esteem

Increased resilience

Enhanced empathy

Improved physical health

Enriched social life

Improved sleep

Increased immune systems

Increased overall happiness

Wow! Sign me up! Those are all qualities I want in my life. In fact, those are just the type of characteristics I hoped I could attain and help others attain when I started writing this blog. “Living Healthier and Happier” is my battle cry and these are foundational to that.

So how do we learn to be more grateful and enjoy all these benefits? Much like other positive characteristics, traits and habits, it takes discipline and practice. You knew there was a catch, didn’t you? But it’s actually very easy to add the gratitude habit to your life. Certainly much easier than exercising every morning and saying no to that glorious chocolate cake.

gratitude changes outlook

Here are 7 ways to become a more grateful person:

Gratitude Journal – This is the one that keeps coming up everywhere I look. So many people have transformed their lives by this simple practice. Many people do this just before bed to remind themselves about the many ways they have been blessed during the day. This helps you sleep better because you end the day on a positive note and have hope for tomorrow. I choose to do this in the morning while my mind is fresh and eager for new experiences. I like to pick one thing I am grateful for and just begin writing specific reasons why this is important to me and how it enhances my life.

Gratitude Jar – I see this as a variation of the Gratitude Journal. But rather than sitting down and focusing on your blessings you must be attuned to the things you are grateful for as you go about your day. Each time something strikes you as being a blessing and you are grateful, write it down and put it in a jar. At some point, many do this on New Year’s Day, pull them out and review them.

Be Social – Share your gratitude with family and friends. After all, the blessings that are the most meaningful are those involving other people. Since we are around family and friends most we should direct our gratefulness to them. You will pass on the gratitude mindset as you share your blessings with them. But even strangers we meet during the day can be the recipients of our gratefulness. If someone brightens our day and we recognize that we can, in turn, make a difference in their day as well. Of course sincerity is key here. Don’t pretend. People see right through you.

Read the Bible – The Bible is the most hopeful and encouraging book ever written and we can learn much about gratitude from the scriptures. One of my favorites is I Thessalonians 5:16-18, Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Another favorite is Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again Rejoice. And I Chronicles 16:34, Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Prayer & Meditation – Spending quiet time praying to God and meditating on the blessings he has put in our lives is so powerful I can’t imagine not doing this on a regular basis. It will change your life by changing how you look at the people and the world around you.

Google It – Yes, you can learn a lot from Google. People share many different ways they express gratitude and it is always changing.

Send notes, cards and private messages – there is still no substitute for mailing a card to someone who you care about, especially when you can share why they are important to you and that you are grateful for them in some specific way. Again, sincerity is key.

Wake up tomorrow with only what you are grateful for

Practicing gratefulness can make a huge difference in your life. An author, Amy Morin, wrote an article in Inc. on the subject and said that if you are interested in self-improvement, mental, spiritual, and physical, and you have only 15 minutes per day, practicing gratefulness is the best thing you can do.

And it gets easier after you do it for a while. You begin to become attuned to the blessings around you and how they affect you. Living with an attitude of gratitude will certainly change your life so give it a try and begin using one of the methods above or one of your own. Let me know how it works out for you.

List Circle Gratitude

6 Benefits Of Eating Chocolate

 

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My last post was about the health benefits of eating broccoli. I like broccoli and have always known it to be healthy. Making better choices every day to slowly improve our health and happiness is what this blog is all about and broccoli, fixed different ways can be one of those smart choices.

But, believe it or not, chocolate has some of the same healthy properties as broccoli. Don’t get too excited though. I’m not talking about those milk chocolate kisses or the solid chocolate bunnies we all love on Easter morning. I’m talking about Dark Chocolate. And not just anything that says “dark” on the wrapper.

When selecting chocolate, look for higher cacao and lower sugar content. In general, the darker the chocolate, the higher the cacao content. For health benefits, choose chocolate with a cacao percentage of 70 or higher. I like the Ghiradelli Midnight Reverie with 86% cacao. A 45 gram (about 1 ½ oz) serving contains only 5 grams of sugar. And also contains 3 grams of protein. As a comparison the same serving of Special Dark Hershey bar contains over 21 grams of sugar. Needless to say the Hershey bar has very little of the health benefits shown below.

Since cacao is bitter, the higher percentage cacao, the more bitter it is. Most manufacturers add sugar to make it palatable so it is a balancing act to make it taste good and still retain the healthy properties. I would say it is an acquired taste but if you have cut back on your sugar intake like I have recommended a little sugar goes a long way.

Here are the six benefits of eating dark chocolate:

  1. It lowers blood pressure by increasing circulation and blood flow due to the flavonoids as well as increases blood vessel elasticity and slightly reduces LDL. This also improves eye health due to increased blood to the retina and brain.
  2. Contains antioxidants (more than green tea) which fight the free radicals in our bodies
  3. Contains reservatrol which is a strong anti-inflammatory and shields nerve cells from damage. This property also
  4. Contains polyphenols – this is what makes it bitter. Theobromine suppresses appetite and increases body’s ability to break down fat
  5. Lowered Insulin resistance which helps prevents diabetes
  6. Phenethylamine causes our brain to release dopamine which helps put us in a good mood

A bonus tip is that by combining dark chocolate with apples the healthy properties of each are enhanced so that the two foods become healthier than just eating them alone. Apples contain high antioxidant flavonoids and dark chocolate is rich in antioxidant catechins. The combination have been shown to break up blood clots and reduce risk of stroke.

Now I have finally given you something you can really sink your teeth into and enjoy. But, of course moderation is the key, especially if you are working on losing some weight

How To Believe In Yourself

I would like to expand on the theme of my last blog about believing in yourself. It included an inspirational 4 minute video. If you missed it check it out here https://whenwesucceed.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/believe-in-yourself/ It is impossible to reach our true potential without belief in ourselves and our abilities.

So, how do we develop a belief in ourselves and in our ability to accomplish great things? How can I know the power I have within myself?

  1. Get in touch with God. He created you and put inside you unique talents and abilities. He has great plans for you and he will show you those plans if you open your mind and allow him to lead your thoughts. Follow his lead, rely on him and he will take you farther than you can ever go on your own.
  2. Start with and recognize small accomplishments. It may be just picking up the phone to call that friend you have been thinking about calling but haven’t. How about that desk you have needed to clean? Or a closet you know you need to straighten up? These small things are like a weight around your neck rattling around in your sub-conscience. Just jump in and get it done. It will give you a sense of accomplishment and will create momentum to do bigger things.
  3. Set your mind to develop one good habit that is small and easy for you to accomplish. If you do not currently have a strong self-esteem don’t attempt to tackle your greatest fears or stop your worst habits. Make some subtle changes for the good, be proud of the success and build from there.
  4. Be true to yourself. This simply means to be completely honest with yourself. So many times we are our own worst critic. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t follow through with your commitments. Just reset and go again. But also don’t let yourself off the hook if you aren’t following through. If you determine something is important work hard for it. Don’t just pretend to work and convince yourself you tried. Be brutally honest with yourself.
  5. Don’t compare yourself with others. They will show you only the successes and not the struggles to get there. Take a look at what you have accomplished and the trials you had to get there. Be proud and determined to keep pushing to improve. Where you have failed, learn from it and move forward.

These are obviously just the basics of believing in yourself but it is a great place to start and the result is a healthier, happier you.

When We Succeed

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When we succeed, it feels good. Especially when we have set a goal and have worked toward that goal and have accomplished something good. We feel this in our career. We may feel it in sports or in a hobby. Or just working around the house and fixing things.

But, can we attain that same feeling of success with our health? It seems so very confusing when we read about a new study telling us we are eating something or doing something harmful. And often it contradicts a study done last year which is why we started eating that or doing that in the first place! Grains are good, protein is bad. Uh-oh, grain turns to sugar and protein now builds muscles. Eggs have artery-clogging cholesterol and grilling causes cancer. No, that was last year. Now we don’t worry about high cholesterol and grilling is still better than frying.

So how do you negotiate your way through all the contradictory messages? That’s my goal here. To guide folks to common sense health habits that will serve them well for many years. Because common sense is the best kind.

I love the question Zig Ziglar frequently asked his audience “Does anyone here own a race horse worth over one million dollars?” No one would raise their hand and he would then ask “If you did have a million-dollar racehorse would you let him stay up half the night, drinking coffee and booze, smoking cigarettes and eating junk food? Would you treat a $10 dog or a $5 cat that way? What about a billion dollar body?”

Of course, living healthy is not always easy. It takes discipline and focus. It requires planning ahead and making hard choices. And sometimes it will seem like it is not worth the effort and sacrifice. But it is. And together we can stay on track to feel better and have more energy to enjoy life.