An Easy Practice with 9 Health Benefits:
When you practice random acts of kindness and gratitude on a daily basis you get physiological benefits:
- increased immune system
- improved cognitive performance
- increased energy
- lower heart rate
- balanced cortisol (hydrocortisone) levels, which result in less internal stress
- more likely to live a longer and a more satisfied life
- laughter and inner joy resulting in decreased stress hormones
- lower blood pressure and
- diminished pain
I woke up a week before Thanksgiving and and my sweet dog, Brodie, of 9 years would not get out of bed. When he did he stumbled and fell to the ground as he was gasping for air. In a panic I rushed him to the vet, I thought I was going to lose him on the car ride over. The only thing I could do was cry out to God for help. I was confused because on Sunday he was running around and playing at the park so his behavior didn’t make sense to me.
After spending all day in the emergency animal hospital, I returned home with nothing but a broken heart, a tsunami of tears, Brodie’s collar and a tuff of his hair.
It turns out he had a cancerous tumor that had wrapped itself around his heart, it was ok until it wasn’t. My husband was traveling and did not return until Wed. I toggle back and forth between feeling the deep void around the house, bouts of deep grief and gratitude that he did not suffer too long and for the 9 years I was blessed with his presence.
In the midst of the tears and heartache, God reminded me of a profound truth He whispered to me when I asked why dogs live such short lives:
Because they embody such a high frequency of unconditional
love, they can not remain in a fallen world for too long before
they need to return to the source of all love. This is why they
age so quickly. They come to remind you of what unconditional
love feels like, looks like and sounds like and then they return to
me and await your home coming to greet you once again.
Are you in a situation in life that you feel is bigger than your emotional capacity to handle?
Identify & Adjust:
Practice cognitive reframing: Step back from your fears, grief, overwhelm as you shift your focus, making a conscious adjustment in your mental perspective from the pain to what you know in the moment.
When the cloud of depression appeared in the midst of my 16 chemo treatments, double mastectomy, 14 surgeries, an additional year of chemo and 6 weeks of daily radiation while going through a divorce, I remember experimenting with different stress relief techniques I had been teaching and learning about for over 20 years to see which one was the quickest at removing the dark clouds. Gratitude won me over every time. You cannot be depressed and grateful at the same time. Whenever I shifted my focus from the ‘stressful situation’ of the divorce, chemo, radiation and surgery to all that I was grateful for (cognitive reframing)- down to my very heartbeat – the darkness lifted instantly.
Each time my heart is heavy with grief over the empty space in my home, I have been implementing the practice of conscious gratitude as I shift my focus from the loss to the thankfulness of experiencing the gift of my dog.
It’s very difficult to be down cast and grateful at the same time. The light of a grateful heart allows the weary soul to lift of up the world like a child’s toy. The one consumed by his circumstance can barely lift a feather. The choice is in the mind of the one who chooses to pitch their tent on the light or dark side of life. Gratitude flips the weary heart back into the possible.
It is important to note that this practice does not require you to suppress your emotions, it simply gives you a safe container to allow yourself to experience peace and hope in the midst of the pain. At one point during this process I had tears streaming down my face as I proclaimed my gratitude for the gift of love through my dog.
“God is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit.” Psalm 34:18
“I invite you to practice gratitude and random acts of kindness each day during this month of Thanksgiving.
Rather than focusing on what is not working out for you, start focusing on what is working out for you. Remember whatever you focus on grows BIGGER.
Much of your unhappiness flows from your sense of entitlement, ‘I don’t deserve this, I deserve more, better, etc.,’ along with comparisons. When you compare yourself to another human being it’s as if you are saying:
‘You have something I need in order to love and
accept myself and move forward in life.’
Entitlement and comparing yourself to those around you will keep you far from the inner peace of gratefulness that flows from having a profound appreciation for the gift of life.
Do you want to see more love in your life? Be love to those around you. Want more peace? Be peaceful and kind to those around you. Love evokes love, peace evokes peace. What if you tuned into a small act of kindness you could do for another person each day before you jumped into your “to-do” list? We can do no big things, as Mother Teresa reminded us, only small things with great love, gratitude is the archway through which small acts of kindness change the world one soul at a time.
As you honor and celebrate your own uniqueness, you will be equipped to offer this gift to those around you. This is the perfect month to practice gratitude and appreciation on a daily basis.
Don’t be surprised if you get hooked and extend your Thanksgiving gratitude for the rest of your life, which more than likely will be extended because of your choice to practice love and gratitude along with releasing the stressful antics that come with farming out your sense of identity to the world around you.
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