Gratitude: The Secret of Happiness (And Weight Loss Success)
The relationship between gratitude and weight loss success may just be one of the most important ideas I share with you.
But first, picture this:
You’re sprinting to get ready for work, fueled by adrenaline and caffeine. You’re thinking… How bad is traffic? Will I make it by 9? Ugh!
You’re hit with a wave of anxiety and stress as you stomp the gas.
“I said I’d eat healthy today. Pfft…there’s no chance of that now.”
Stop and think about the emotional state you’re in.
…You’re hungry and anxious because you skipped breakfast.
…You’re staring at miles of tail lights and worried you won’t make it on time.
And to top it off:
…You’re drowning in guilt. Here’s yet another day you said you were going to start things off right but didn’t.
How are you feeling?
- Stressed? Sure.
- Frustrated? Certainly.
- Hopeless? Absolutely.
Now think about how these emotions will dictate your choices today?
Healthy decisions are easy when motivation is high and you’re feeling good, but what about now?
There’s an undeniable connection between emotions and choices.
Emotions trigger a response.
- Emotions: Angry & Frustrated
- Response: Yelling at the lady for cutting across four lanes of traffic to make her exit.
- Emotions: Relaxed & Calm
- Response: Noticing she’s from out of town, so you give her a break.
See. Your emotions send you down a path and–depending on the emotional state you’re in–will trigger wildly different responses.
Take stress and anxiety, for example.
These emotions cause your cravings to kick into high gear. And your natural response is to suppress them with a side of comfort food.
You could try and tamp those feelings down with willpower. Or, what if you could simply change your emotional state?
Instead of a dose of comfort food, perhaps it’s time for a dose of gratitude.
Now. I’m not talking about new-age magic, “living your abundant life,” or catchy “have an attitude of gratitude” one-liners.
I’m talking about research-backed strategies to boost happiness and change your emotions.
Neuroscience shows gratitude actually rewires your brain.
Expressing gratitude alters the molecular structure of your brain, making you both happier and healthier.
How does that happen?
Here’s what UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center says.
“When you feel happiness, the central nervous system is affected. You are more peaceful, less reactive and less resistant.“
Which brings me to the point I want to make.
Focus on these four words: more peaceful, less reactive.
Think about the last intense craving you had.
👉 Would you describe yourself as peaceful and less reactive?
No. Cravings have the opposite effect. They trigger a sense of urgency. You’re turning the kitchen inside out until you find something sweet.
“I need chocolate NOW, and no one better get in my way!”
So if cravings are urgent and reactive, isn’t it more peaceful and less reactive what you’re after?
David DeSteno, professor of psychology at Northeastern University, says this about gratitude.
“Gratitude increases people’s self-control, and it increases their ability to wait.”
Increasing your ability to wait is critical in the battle of instant vs. delay gratification.
Gratitude changes your emotional state.
On the one hand, you can choose to focus on what went wrong, what you could’ve done differently, and everything you’re missing out on.
And on the other, you can choose to focus on what went well, the progress you’ve made, and everything you DO have.
One leads to feelings of worry, guilt, stress, and deprivation. And the other to peace and appreciation.
Speaking of worry, stress, and deprivation.
These are words I hear clients say every day. And it’s always tied to an unhealthy choice.
- I was worried…so I ate X.
- I was stressed…so I ate Y.
- Everyone else had Z…so I ate it too.
When you change your emotions, you change your actions.
And when you change your actions, you build healthy habits.
Professor BJ Fogg, founder of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University, says:
“Emotions create habits.”
I agree 100%. Do you?
And if you do, then you must ask…
👉 What habits are my emotions creating?
Listen. The Health & Fitness industry convinced everyone to count calories, track macros, and hit 10,000 steps a day.
And those are all helpful, but consider this…
If your emotions create your habits, then are you focusing on the wrong things?
If you changed your emotions, would you need to worry about calories?
In our online coaching program, our clients keep a gratitude journal because we know the power of emotions. And the emotional reasons behind what you eat are what we work on every day.
So what benefit does keeping a journal have?
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. And in his research, he shows us that people who practiced gratitude felt 25% happier than those that didn’t — and exercised an average of 1.5 hours more.
Imagine how different your life would be if you were happier…if you exercised more…
When you practice gratitude, you’re training yourself to be happier. When you’re happier, healthy choices are easier.
And when healthy choices are easier, is staying fit the struggle they’ve led you to believe?
I’ll leave you with three tips to help you become more grateful today.
1.) Keep a gratitude journal. And THIS is when to use it…
The morning or evening are terrific times to write down what you’re most grateful for.
But use your journal when you need it most.
When do your cravings come on strongest? Is after work when your stress hits its peak? Or is it in the evening when you’re anxious and bored?
Use gratitude at times you need to change your emotional state.
2.) Be grateful for what you’re gaining.
Deprivation is a funny emotion, especially when it comes to eating healthy.
And most people focus on what they’re missing: sodas, cookies, ice cream.
*BTW, eating healthy is never an all-or-nothing game. You can still have the foods you enjoy.*
When you’re so focused on what you can’t have, feelings of deprivation take over. And you entirely overlook what you’re gaining.
You’re gaining confidence, a new perspective.
Be grateful for the progress your making, find joy in the process.
3.) Appreciate the small things.
Gratitude doesn’t have to be about grand gestures. There are so many small acts and moments to be thankful for.
The smell of coffee brewing in the morning, how your spouse smiles at you when you walk through the door, the sound of your child laughing.
One last note on gratitude.
Using grit and willpower to change your habits will only take you so far…
If you want to be happier, stop and appreciate what you have, and what others have done for you.
Gratitude starts by looking for what you’re thankful for.
Gratitude changes your emotions, it changes how you act, it changes who you are.