No matter how popular gratitude exercises are becoming these days, there is something too sacred about the process to become just-another-trend in my mind. Practicing gratefulness is anything but new. It’s an ancient method, clearly mapped out—step-by-step—in the majority of Eastern traditions, and has even been a focus of celebrated Western philosophers since the thirteenth century. But here’s something you may not know: not only is it proven to make you happier and healthier—it can even help you lose weight.
Maybe you’re like me, and you already have experience practicing gratefulness, or perhaps you’re simply looking for some insight into what all the buzz is about. Either way, we are about to deepen your understanding, and your practice, by explaining exactly how to use gratitude most effectively in your weight loss journey.
Gratefulness positively affects our mental and emotional well-being
Recent studies are confirming what myself and countless others have already experienced: gratitude not only brings more joy, and comfort, into people's lives—it actually clarifies and broadens our awareness. The parts of the brain associated with learning and good decision making are most notably affected.
Gratitude is not only key to feeling good, but of thinking more clearly!
How important is mindset to weight loss?
In Is Mindset More Important Than Food for Weight Loss? Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD explains how “food choices, calories and body weight have always been the focus for most commercial diets.”
Alarmingly, “based on rising obesity rates, [that approach] hasn’t worked.” She goes on to explain that “food decisions (and almost all health choices) are heavily influenced by things like emotions, psychological aspects, time, stress, and expectations” all of which can be positively impacted by exercising gratefulness.
Gratitude activities dramatically alter our state of mind, which is integral to living in our best bodies.
Are emotions an important consideration to losing weight?
The American Psychological Association took a poll and found that 92% of psychologists who offered weight loss as part of their core therapies specifically cited having helped their patients “address underlying emotional issues related to weight gain." More than 70 percent went on to remark that solution-oriented thinking and mindfulness were "excellent" or at least “good" strategies for weight loss. (Emotions are Top Obstacle to Weight Loss, Poll Finds)
According to these clinical psychologists, the number one skill essential for weight loss is “understanding and managing the behaviors and emotions” related to weight loss. The most highly agreed upon barrier was allotted to “emotional eating” .
Traits associated with thankfulness can be powerful weight loss tools
Researchers at Berkeley are finding so many positive mental and emotional benefits associated with actively seeking gratefulness, they’ve made it a special focus. If you look closely at the traits Berkeley cites, you’ll see how thankfulness can dramatically alter our bodies for the better.
It “unshackles us from toxic emotions”
This can be a very easy weight loss hack in and of itself, as we often hold onto old unwanted emotions as fat. This release can also rid us of the unconscious need to appear bigger, making us more comfortable seeming vulnerable (i.e. thinner).
Practicing gratitude decreases depression and anxiety
Lifting our minds and spirits results in increased energy levels, outlook, and willpower to create a better body and life.
It positively impacts the brain long term
Gratitude can be a real solution to dramatically changing our mentality. Gratitude is proving to be a supremely simple and effective treatment to a healthier mindset—long-term.
Healthy lifestyle changes start in the mind
Gratitude therapies are crucial to beginning, attaining and maintaining, a beautiful mind, body and life.
It’s so important, Berkeley developed a “Thankfulness Curriculum”
The scientists at Berkeley endorse gratefulness so much, they started an initiative to cultivate this extraordinary characteristic through education.
Three out of five of the characteristics they aim to nurture with their gratefulness activities are directly related to weight loss:
- Self-awareness: leads to greater confidence and optimism—both necessary to be proactive in our health goals.
- Self-management: regulates our thoughts, feelings and actions—healing emotional eating etc.
- Responsible decision making: leads to productive choices and behavior according to our highest wellness.
4 scientific gratitude exercises you can use for weight loss
Developing out-of-the-box, data-driven solutions to get women (and men) into their best bodies is a passion of mine. So I developed these exercises for you by using the framework of the Berkeley tutorials.
1. Make a list of your healthy lifestyle strengths
Do you love healthy food? Are you practicing better habits? Do you have a special reason for committing to a weight loss goal? Have you recently found an activity you love?
- How will these strengths ease your path to a better body composition this time?
Creating a list of your personal strengths will help you shift your focus to how well equipped you are, instead of how difficult it may be, when inevitable challenges arise in your quest for a leaner you.
2. Recognize the unique gifts of health at your disposal
Do you have a friend who’d love to workout with you? Is there a farmer’s market near your home where you can get fresh produce? Do you know someone who is willing to meditate with you? Or a friend who will support you in times of stress? How about a family member who is rooting for you to be as healthy as possible?
- Think about how much time and energy it takes to create those gifts — those investments offered to your well-being. What goes into preparing and facilitating the yoga classes at your local studio? What kind of planning and preparation went into growing the fresh food you eat? What benefits do you receive?
Considering how fortunate you are for your unique gifts, and what they cost others, cultivates appreciation which makes you more likely to take advantage of those opportunities.
3. Find a positive role model; meditate on their feats
Do you have a healthy-living role model? How grateful are you for having them to look up to? What challenges have they overcome? What positive traits, actions and decisions do they make?
- Do you relate to any of their story? Do any of their strengths offer guidance on your health path? Does knowing someone else has overcome similar obstacles make it easier to proceed?
Appreciating others’ journeys motivates us. Seeing outcomes of healthy habits helps us honour the struggle and embrace growth—even when it gets uncomfortable.
4. Who cares about your health?
Who believes in you? Who invests their time into your well-being? Do you have a doctor who wants to help or a support network on social media?
- How grateful are you to have that support in your life?
Feeling gratitude for people who support our health make us more open to receiving their help, and reciprocating it in kind. This is key to sustaining the journey to lifelong wellness.
Should I commit to a practice or just try to feel thanks?
Cultivating a sense of thankfulness is not only good for us, it’s just plain sensible. Gratitude activities are not simply exercises in positive thinking, they help us develop objective reasoning. It is crucial to ground ourselves in a practice to get real.
Gratitude isn’t just an emotion that happens along, but a virtue we can cultivate.
We are wired to take notice of danger, so we are bombarded by it in media. Seeking the positive pieces of our lives—and our health journeys—is not only necessary, it’s rational.
By choosing a broader outlook, actively seeking a grateful perspective, the good in our lives becomes indisputable—we can see, in earnest, wonder is on our side.
It’s not hard. People like me have your back! You can get your best body and your dream life with simple choices. Cultivating gratitude with these practices, coupled with choosing your media wisely, mean you too can be a conscious co-creator of a wonderful reality—for yourself and by supporting it in others.