Stress Replacer: The Attitude of Gratitude – by Dr. Nick Araza
Okay, so in keeping with the Thinking Well theme to this month, I thought I would write about my favorite healthy thinking habit – the Attitude of Gratitude. I first heard about this from one of my mentors in wellness science education, Dr. James Chestnut, who began the CCWP (certified chiropractic wellness practitioner) coursework and credentialing system. Basically he taught me that our brains are singular in focus - meaning that if we are thinking about one thing, that means that we simply cannot think about another thing. This doesn’t mean multitasking isn’t possible; however, multitasking is more of shuffling or repeat shifting of your focus, rather than focusing on two things at the same time. He also taught me that this is great news.
Why is that so great? Wouldn’t it be better if I could think of multiple things at once? Time efficiency, man! I mean come on - who wouldn’t want to be listening intently to their significant other as they describe their day, while at the same time figure out what they are going to eat for breakfast, wear, or do tomorrow….and all while remembering what their significant other actually said? I know I would, bub!
Okay, for tasks, that may be a plus, but when it comes to our physiology, it isn’t so good. Think about all you have to do before Christmas - no, that’s too stressful for some. Let’s just think about all you have to do before bed today. Now imagine that you could think of all of that at once…OVERWHELMING? Here’s one more positive about this singular focus: if you are thinking about something good (positive self-talk), you simply cannot think about something bad (negative self-talk) at the same time. That is great because our thoughts actually affect our physiology; thinking about a negative, hurtful or stressful event actually causes the release of the same stress hormones that would flow in preparation for a tiger attack. And since we seem to be a nation of dwellers, meaning we like to think about the same stuff over and over and over…if what you’re thinking is not such a positive set of thoughts, you end up with chronic emotional/mental stress which leads to/contributes to chronic disease (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, digestive disorders, etc.) – the killer of 75% of all Americans.
Here’s the really good news: Your thoughts are just like movements in the sense that the more often you think certain thoughts, the easier it is to think them the next time…you can actually get good at thinking whatever thoughts you practice thinking. This is just like if you were to practice shooting a basketball - the more you practice, the better coordinated you get, the better your nerve system gets, and triggering the right pathways to fire the right muscles to shoot the basketball into the net. Your same nerve system gets better at thinking, too. If you always think life is sweet, it is actually easier to fire the nerves down the pathway to thinking life is sweet. Pretty sweet huh?!
This is exactly where the Attitude of Gratitude comes in.
This actually combines both good thoughts and a good habit, all rolled into one if you do it right, and it is the BEST WAY TO START YOUR DAY!
I do this first thing in the morning, and taking a short walk is the best way to accomplish it, but it’s not necessary. Beautiful scenery also helps, or you can close your eyes and picture yourself at a beach, on a mountain, in a church, or anyplace that brings you peace.
There is no set time for this activity, but I find that one lap around a relatively small block is perfect – about 5 minutes. On the way around the block for the first half, I think and say out loud of all of the things that I am thankful for in my life, and for the second half of the time/walk, I think and say out loud all of the things that are coming into my life that I am thankful for.
For example, and I change mine up every day, but the core/gist is the same:
Good morning, World/God/Mother Nature/Lord/Universe/All Things (I change it up), thank you for this day, thank you for the sunshine I feel, thank you for the warmth of my house, thank you for my family who have helped me become the person that I am - my mom, dad and brother are so amazing, and I am so thankful for them. Thank you for my friends (I then visualize their faces, which always brings me a smile), thank you for the opportunity to be here in New England and for the places that I’ve seen, thank you for bringing my girlfriend into my life, thank you for my health and the energy that I’ve put toward it, thank you for my co-workers and the practices and what I have learned here during the past year, thank you for bringing chiropractic into my life, and the traveling that I have been able to do, thank you for the breakfast I just ate (it was delicious), etc.
Thank you for the lives that I am going to help and save today, thank you for the fun and healthful exercise session I’m going to have, thank you for the food and water I will have today, thank you for my success and my future successful practice and businesses I will run, thank you for the friends I have yet to make and the lives I have yet to touch. Thank you for EVERYTHING!
Try it out tomorrow, and you’ll definitely notice a positive change in your physiology.
Thank you for reading, and for your continued success in health!
Dr. Nicholas Araza DC CCWP