March 9, 2022
Welcome to the Symbio blog! I’m excited to be writing again. As I began writing I realized how much I missed it, so I’m looking forward to this. It’s a way to support and empower you, with learnings I have experienced over the course of my 45 years here on earth.
We will also have other contributors to the Symbio blog from time to time and as we grow and expand.
When I was deciding what to write about first, what came to mind, based on my 12- week Thrive Method program, was mindset, and with this I began. As I was writing, what I realized was that my gratitude practice is actually what helped me create an empowered “student of life” growth mindset. So I’m actually going start with GRATITUDE.
Sometime in late 2011…
I remember struggling to wake up and get through my day. Every morning when I opened my eyes, I dreaded the day ahead. The same monotonous routine, nothing new or exciting to look forward to. Everything felt pointless, meaningless, blah. I questioned everything. I felt awful. I had no energy. I was eating poorly. I wasn’t exercising. I wasn’t socializing. I was trying to take care of my 3 young boys and I remember thinking, “How am I going to raise 3 healthy, happy children if I am not healthy and happy?”
I knew I had to make a change but wasn’t sure what to do. Within a 6 month period, my eldest son was diagnosed with ADHD, I was diagnosed with depression (this was 6 months after my third and youngest son was born), and my former husband at the time had been told he had a fatty liver and also needed to have his gall bladder removed. Before that surgery could happen, which I was trying to help him avoid, he had an attack and ended up at the hospital emergency. He almost died of septic and liver failure.
Writing this is making me relive it in a way. It’s not really what I wanted to do, but I realize it’s necessary to bring me back there so I can communicate more clearly to you how I found the practice of gratitude. I believe the practice of gratitude literally saved my life.
So when all this happened, I started doing my own research to understand how to help myself and my family without medications. This is not a judgement on anyone who does take meds for any reason. Sometimes they are needed and they can be a bridge to better health, which is something I have seen in my clients. I know how hard it is to navigate the world of “wellness” today. We are living in the information age, but it’s literally information overload! Everywhere you look there is a different study, or viewpoint, or article. It can be overwhelming to distill and discern what exactly you need. I started seeing a chiropractor, a wonderful woman who I still see to this day. She miraculously came — at the perfect time — to speak at the Mommy and Baby Fitness class I was taking with my little one at the time. Her perspective was a holistic one, and the things she spoke about resonated deeply. I wanted to learn more, and I did. She introduced me to a holistic nutritionist and that is how my healing journey began.
ho·lis·tic — /hōˈlistik/
characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.
characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.
I remember coming across an article about gratitude at that time. I wish I still had it but we’re talking about almost 11 years ago. After reading it, I remember having a realization that I didn’t feel grateful about much in my life. I complained a lot. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I used to say “I’m tired” all the time, and then one day I heard my oldest son saying the same thing. That hit hard. It was a massive “aha” moment for me. The realization that everything I do and say, they are watching and learning. It’s not about me telling them what to do, it’s about me doing myself what I want them to do. If I want them to grow up happy and healthy, I have to be the example for them.
I had kept a journal for many years when I was younger, so the practice of journaling wasn’t new to me but the practice of gratitude was. I also like writing in general, something I’m realizing at the ripe age of 45, I’d like to do more of. When I was younger I wrote poetry and song lyrics, so this wasn’t something that felt challenging for me. After reading that article about gratitude I immediately went out and bought myself a beautiful journal and began my gratitude practice. I still keep this practice every night before going to sleep. No matter how tired I am, when I see the journal sitting on my night table, I am reminded to be grateful for the gift of life, and the day I have been blessed to live.
What I’ve learned by staying consistent with it, is that having a daily gratitude practice can help you overcome feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, chaos and hopelessness. Practicing gratitude shifts your mind from a state of disempowerment to a state of empowerment. Doing this helped me regain control on the focus of my thoughts, which led to my actions, and ultimately to my circumstances and outcomes. I started to feel more optimistic and excited about doing new things and talking to people, which was something I hadn’t felt in a long time.
“Be grateful for what you already have while you pursue your goals. If you aren’t grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you would be happy with more.”Roy T. Bennett
We are conditioned by society to focus on all the “bad” things that happen to us—although I personally don’t believe any experience is inherently “bad”—and on the “doom and gloom” happening in the world. There are so many beautiful things happening all around us, so many more than the discouraging things, if we are willing to see them. Once you begin to focus on the positive things in your life and all around you, it shifts your perspective. It begins to change the way you think, and actually creates new neural pathways in your brain. This allows you to see your life and the world around you in a new way. You will begin to notice things you didn’t notice before and you will start to look for all the blessings that are already present in your life, you just haven’t been able to see them.
There have been several studies done on the scientifically proven benefits of gratitude. According to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology, writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep. Spending just 15 minutes writing down a few grateful sentiments before bed, will help you sleep better and longer. Being grateful also improves self-esteem and reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward other people, grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.
Gratitude reduces a multitude of negative emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for—even during the worst times—fosters resilience.
In a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky, grateful people were more likely to behave in a more social manner, even when others behaved less kindly. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to react negatively towards others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people.
Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. They are more likely to take care of their health, exercise more often, and get regular check-ups, which contributes to overall feelings of well-being and longevity.
This practice was my first step in creating a non-negotiable self-care routine for myself when I started my healing journey. Doing this right before bed sets your mind and body up for a peaceful night’s sleep, because you go to bed thinking about all the wonderful things you experienced in your day, or might be possible in your life. This is distinctly different than mulling over all the “problems” you have created in your mind. What you write doesn’t have to be some huge occurrence, but instead can be simple everyday blessings—I call them miracles—like talking to a friend; having healthy food in your fridge; seeing the flowers blooming in the spring; the sun and rain that nourish us and Mother Earth; reading a good book; hugging someone you love; reaching a goal you set for yourself; hearing a favourite song; being able to support a friend or family member; or playing with your kids or pet(s).
It’s up to you…
We all have the ability to cultivate gratitude. It’s a choice. You can take the opportunity to focus on all that you do have, rather than focusing on the things you don’t have. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to create feelings of joy, calmness, and inner peace in your life.
I encourage you to begin a gratitude practice. Make the choice and a commitment to yourself to stick to it for at least 3 weeks. Creating new, healthy habits takes time and dedication—this is why it’s called a practice—and I promise you it’s so worth it. Place the journal near you bed or somewhere you will see it, this will help to remind you to do it. Make it easy for yourself. Start with writing just 3 things. As you continue you will notice how good it feels and this will be the motivation to keep you going with it. I would even suggest you ask a friend to do it with you so you can hold each other accountable. I find accountability really helps me with creating new habits and routines. If you decide to do this, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment and share you experience. You never know who you might inspire.
Holistic Wellness Practitioner, RHN, MNLP, MTLT
Other studies and resources on gratitude: