Mareike's ultimate guide to healthy living - step #8: be grateful

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Step #1 was taking stock of your current health and fitness

Step #2 was addressing any issues that were uncovered during step #1.

Step #3 was moving more (by increasing your amount of exercise).

Step #4 was upgrading your diet.

Step #5 was managing stress.

And #6 was sleep better.

Step #7 was developing your relationships.

And the eighth and final step is: Be grateful! 

My final step in the Healthy Living series once again goes beyond the physical aspects of diet and exercise and looks at something that promotes health by making us happier – being grateful.

Negative attitudes are bad for you. But if you can find any authentic reason to give thanks, anything that is going right with the world or your life, and put your attention there, then statistics say you're going to be better off.

So what are you grateful for? It's a question that could change your life. There are many studies that have concluded that the expression of gratitude can have profound and positive effects on our moods, and our health.

In one study on gratitude, randomly assigned participants were given one of three tasks. Each week, participants kept a short journal. One group briefly described five things they were grateful for that had occurred in the past week, another five recorded daily hassles from the previous week that displeased them, and the neutral group was asked to list five events or circumstances that affected them, but they were not told whether to focus on the positive or on the negative. Ten weeks later, participants in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a whole and were a full 25 percent happier than the hassled group. They reported fewer health complaints, and exercised an average of 1.5 hours more!

Another study was conducted with adults having congenital and adult-onset neuromuscular disorders. Participants in the gratitude group reported more hours of sleep each night, more satisfaction with their lives as a whole, felt more optimism about the upcoming week, and felt considerably more connected with others than did participants in the control group.

Several studies have also shown that clinically depressed individuals showed significantly lower gratitude than non-depressed controls.

Here are some other benefits of having an attitude of gratitude that are backed up by legitimate studies:

  • It makes us happier
  • It strengthens our emotions
  • It makes us more optimistic
  • It increases self-esteem
  • It improves our sleep
  • It improves our energy levels
  • It increases the desire to exercise
  • It deepens friendships
  • It improves decision-making
  • It increases productivity

Are you sold yet?

If you could do with a little of the above, here are some simple things you can do to build positive momentum toward a happier and healthier life:

  • Commit to writing a gratitude list. It gains momentum over time and with practice.
  • Begin. The power is in the writing. Sit down with pen and paper and start, "I am grateful for…" Think about your friends, your family, an amazing memory, all of your senses; the things you see, hear, taste, smell and touch. Gratitude, it is said, is the memory of the heart.
  • Choose a set time of day. You may want to do this when you first wake in the morning or late at night before you go to sleep.
  • Feel it. Some days you will write without feeling a shred of gratitude. That’s OK. Just do it anyway, and the feeling will come. Kind of like 'fake it 'til you make it'.
  • Practise present-moment gratitude. Moving through your day with awareness will mean that when you do sit down to write your gratitude list those things will come to mind.
  • Don’t stop once you start to see results. The magic is in the continuance!

In the chronic busyness of our day-to-day life, we tend to neglect our health, but the truth is that it is our health that keeps us going. By applying these eight Healthy Living Steps into your lifestyle, you will be well on your way to enjoying the peak health that makes life richer, easier, and ultimately more fulfilling. Your best awaits you!

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Mareike Bout is a qualified and registered personal trainer who specialises in holistic fitness and lifestyle coaching. She is a recognised leader in the industry, receiving the peer-voted South Australia Personal Trainer of the Year award in 2008. She is also a regular guest on Adelaide’s top-rating radio station FIVEaa. Mareike runs her personal training business, One Life Live Well, both online and from a private studio in Adelaide. Services include one-on-one training, outdoor group fitness, lifestyle coaching and weight-loss programs. Individually tailored programs encompass aspects of exercise, nutrition, relaxation, positive thinking, life balance, and goal setting. Her approach is to guide, support and educate her clients so that they posses the tools required to live a life of health, strength and vitality!