Gratitude as Therapy

Bodywork sessions often have the release of stress or trauma from the body as the focus. And yet, what happens after we release yet another stressful memory or emotion? What tools are there to stop more stress showing up in our lives in future?

Gratitude comes from the Latin word gratus, meaning ‘pleasing or thankful’. When we feel gratitude, we feel a feeling of appreciation, and it’s precisely this that can be a powerful antidote to stress.

Studies show that gratitude can increase our levels of happiness and wellbeing in numerous ways. Focusing on gratitude can help with feeling less physical pain, improved self-esteem, increased levels of compassion towards self and others, boosting our immune systems and helping get along better with others in social situations.  

Did you know? Gratitude is good for your cholesterol, and also helps improve the quality of sleep

Brain neuroplasticity means old dogs can learn new tricks

Focusing on things, people and events that we are thankful for in our lives, and looking for the positives in all situations, can actually help to rewire the brain. When we feel appreciation, the brain releases the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, the natural feel good chemicals in the body. These chemicals are regularly released in those people who consciously practice feeling grateful throughout their day.

This helps the neural pathways in the brain to strengthen themselves, leading to a virtuous cycle. The more we practice, the easier it becomes to feel good within ourselves. The stronger the neural pathways become, the more likely we are to focus on what’s going right in our lives, rather than focusing on what’s going wrong. This is because of something called Hebb’s Law, which says that “neurons that fire together wire together”.

The brain in neuroplastic, which means that in never stops forming new neural pathways and connections throughout our lifetimes. This means that it is possible to teach old dogs new tricks! So no matter what age you are, or your previous thought patterns, you can start practicing gratitude right now! Note, results will not be immediate as new neural pathways are built, but with practice and over time, the results can lead to a much increased sense of wellbeing.

Removing negativity is more powerful than focusing on the positive

An interesting study done on students who were receiving mental health services showed that those who were asked to write weekly letters of gratitude fared better in the long-run than those that focused on the things that were ‘wrong’ in their lives. Another fascinating outcome of the study was that what really made the difference was not so much the presence of ‘positive’ words, but the absence of ‘negative’ ones.

By teaching ourselves new ways of thinking and being that eliminate negatively judging and criticising ourselves and others, and focusing on the version of ourselves and the world we want to see, we can feel happy and well.

Did you know? The workplace is the place where people are least likely to express gratitude. A great opportunity to start looking for the positives in our jobs, bosses and colleagues!

Ways to increase gratitude and appreciation

  • Set a positive intention for the day ahead in the morning
  • Smile more
  • Give
  • Do good deeds
  • Focus on what’s good in your life
  • Think positive thoughts about what you notice is good or working well in your life, or in the world in general
  • Think loving thoughts towards yourself and others
  • Cultivate an attitude of learning to love your body
  • Write a gratitude journal every day, listing a few things that you are grateful for in any particular moment
  • Think of any good things that have happened during the day at the end of the day

Role of Gratitude in Bodywork Therapy

The ‘attitude of gratitude’ can play an important role in helping to heal from past stresses and traumas. In bodywork therapy, clients are invited and encouraged to stay in the present moment through practicing mindfulness. This can be done through the awareness of the breath, the five senses, as well as noticing the thoughts in the mind and the physical sensations in the body. Thus, coming into the present moment, or the ‘Now’ enables us to notice what is happening within ourselves right now. This can enable us to learn to choose to change any negative thoughts or body sensations to positive ones. The effects can be powerful and far reaching.

I offer sessions in Teesside, London and online to individuals and couples.

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