Are you well?
How ‘well’ do you feel today? Rather than only thinking about our health when we feel ill, why not take a few minutes each day to think about how ‘well’ you feel. Pain-free? Sleep well? No hangover? Able to get outside and breathe deeply in the fresh open air? Yeah!
Gratitude is part of a wider outlook on life that involves noticing and appreciating the positive aspects of life. A 2015 study published by the American Psychological Association found that higher gratitude scores in subjects related to better mood, better sleep, more positive health-promoting habits, less inflammation, and improved heart health! The researchers used standard psychological tests and also asked some of the patients to write down three things for which they were thankful most days of the week for eight weeks. And their conclusion: “It seems that a more grateful heart is indeed a more healthy heart, and that gratitude journaling is an easy way to support cardiac health.”
So why is this? Well, the suggestion is that gratitude (a positive appraisal of situations) is likely to be incompatible with the negative beliefs associated with depression. So if gratitude is related to improved personal perception about life satisfaction, your purpose in life, positive relationships with others, personal growth etc, then there will be a reduced likelihood of depression. Gratitude may also help to enhance health by shifting your perception of daily life events from negative to positive. Seeing less ‘hassles’ (negative) and more ‘uplifts’ (positive) in your day has been found to correlate with mood, health, and have an effect on inflammation in the body.
Now back to wellness - as well as being grateful for simply not being poorly, wellness is an active process of becoming aware of, and making choices towards a better quality of life. Getting outside in nature more often; eating more fruit and vegetables; walking more; spending more time with friends and family; reading more….simple conscious changes that could make you feel happier and more fulfilled. Of course, all of these choices are very personal. What is right for one person might not necessarily be right for somebody else. It is a case of finding what is right for you.
What are your areas to work on? What will improve your wellness? Maybe set yourself a goal this week to start something new. This is a positive approach, rather than the usual focus on ‘giving something up’ when we think about health. And don’t wait until January 1st, start tomorrow! Find the areas you want to improve upon and look for ways specifically linked to them. There are loads of useful resources to help you. For inspiration, why not take a look at:
I’m a big believer that the first step out of the door is the hardest. Anxiety and the worry of ‘what if something happens?’ or ‘is it worth it?’ are a regular occurrence before getting outside. Try not to let these kind of thoughts cloud your judgement, they will only hold you back. One approach would be to plan to go for a ten minute walk. If this then becomes an hour - happy days! These walks can be anywhere - round your neighbourhood, local park or further afield – it is entirely your choice and what you are comfortable with.
Setting the scene is helpful too. Lay out your walking clothes and boots the night before and prepare a backpack. In a future article, we’ll be going through with you step by step, what exactly to take with you in your backpack so you can be prepped and ready to go! Having a buddy to share your goals is also a fantastic motivator. My lazy weekend mornings are often cut short by my partner reminding me of how good it will feel to get outdoors and climb up to a glorious view or hike out to a beautiful waterfall or castle.
Taking responsibility for your health and happiness gives you control. I particularly love activities such as hiking and yoga because they allow me the time and space to become more self-aware, calm and ultimately make life decisions. Life is busy and time out for yourself is so important, a necessity, not a luxury.
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