The Physiology Of Stress
When many people start their journey toward a more mindful, positive life, they often groan when they hear the suggestion to, “Be more grateful”. Typically, this remark is used to scold people who are healthily venting or upset about something, and being told to be grateful can put us in a defensive position. We are grateful, after all, right? We appreciate our privileges, our family and everything we’ve been fortunate enough to receive in this life. But does appreciating those things mean we aren’t entitled to hurt or feel frustrated over things we’d very much like to not be doing right now? Stress is a part of life, and you should never try to live an existence that is entirely stress-free. The physiological and psychological responses to stress can make our bodies and minds more alert and improve our productivity. Overall, being stressed once in a while is not the biggest threat to our health. It’s only when we become chronically stressed through a negative lifestyle and thought patterns that we begin to experience physical and mental side-effects. Functional medicine incorporates elements of mindfulness to reduce these symptoms, and gratitude is one of them.
Living a Mindful Lifestyle
Being mindful and practicing gratitude go hand-in-hand. Mindfulness is all about bringing your awareness to the here-and-now, and it’s almost impossible to not find gratitude in that quiet space. When you allow your brain and body to align through breathing, you create balance. Balance of our mind and bodies is the platform of natural healing. When you practice gratitude, you help shift your mindset from negative to positive, enabling you to see the good with the bad.
Ways to Practice Gratitude Every Day
You may wake up with the intention of practicing gratitude, but the act requires commitment and gentle reminders. Negativity is learned, and it’s reinforced by thought patterns we indulge over a period of months or, in most cases, years. Gratitude is just one way we untrain our brains to be negative. Natural healing starts with our thoughts; your mindset influences how you see the world, how you feel and the type of solutions you look for to your problems. In functional medicine, maintaining a healthy work/life balance is one of the most important foundations of wellness. Our hormones play a large role in your mental and physical health, and living a balanced life is the best way to ensure that they are not being over or under-produced. Stress hormones like cortisol put our body’s on “high alert” all the time, and it can worsen anxiety. Work/life health is rooted in prioritization and organization. Rather than feeling as if you have to sacrifice a career to pursue a hobby when you’d rather be working, this means you set healthy boundaries. At work, you do your best, but when you’ve worked your designated hours, you give yourself permission to enjoy what’s outside of the office. Being grateful starts with taking inventory. A simple five-minute morning meditation is an excellent way to do this. As you allow your breath to settle into a slow, natural rhythm, think about what you have to be thankful for today. Don’t overcomplicate it; you can be grateful for your comfy PJs, or your cat snoozing at the foot of your bed. It all starts with a decision to improve, and the belief that your attempts to practice gratitude are enough to make your life better one day at a time.