In my work as a psychotherapist and horsewoman as well as in my personal life, I am deeply touched by the healing power of gratitude. Gratitude can shut off a stress response more effectively than any drug or other coping mechanism. When you go to gratitude, it literally changes your brain chemistry. You are shifting from lower emotional centers that are geared to make sure you are safe into a more heart-centered emotional state that tells you “All is well.” The body’s physiological response shifts from pumping the stress hormones into your system to keep you activated to whatever the perceived danger is, to allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and tell all of those busy activating hormones to go home and take a rest. All of this simply by changing your thoughts!
There are many reasons to feel unsafe in this world. Most of us are over our heads with busy lives and all the responsibilities of work, home, and family. Then add to that a health crisis, a financial challenge, a relationship drama….. and our body goes into survival mode. “I am not safe!!!” The health repercussions of this are huge, both physically and mentally. Many of our modern day diseases have stress at its root or as an exacerbating factor (cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases…). We all know we need to exercise more, meditate, eat better, take more time for ourselves, etc. to “manage our stress.” And yet we don’t. Our lives are too busy. It takes too much time.
In truth, it’s just that we don’t have a habit pattern established for whatever the self care is we would like to incorporate. Our brain does not imagine and recognize that particular activity as something that is “me”. I will write more on how we create new neural pathways in a future blog post (and Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy is one way!). For today, I want to speak to how in less than one minute you can change the way that you feel. It’s all about GRATITUDE. And practicing gratitude over and over in little moments throughout the day creates a new neural pathway in the brain that allows for new choices in your life which then creates habit patterns that support your well being. You get the drift.
So right now, as you read this blog, take a moment to practice gratitude:
First, take a deep breath. As you exhale, imagine you are sending your tailbone down towards the ground. As you inhale, lift your rib cage up. Take a few of these breaths and feel the space that is created in your core. Let your head and neck lift up as well, lengthening your spine and letting more energy flow through. Then think of one thing you are grateful for right in this moment. It may be about a connection with someone you love, or an experience in nature, or a beautiful painting or poem that moves you, or an incredibly delicious meal, or anything that simply makes you feel happy.
As you focus on your gratitude, bring your attention to the area around your heart. Imagine that your heart center is expanding as you feel grateful. Direct your breath to this area: inhale into your heart center, then exhale from that center and imagine you are sending that gratitude-infused breath throughout every cell in your body. Do this as long as you would like, continuing to hold your gratitude in your awareness. Notice how different you feel when you are done. And notice how little time it takes to do this!!!
Finally, create an intention from this space. How do you want to move forward in your day from what you are feeling right now? Notice how shifting your energy affects the choices that you need to make in this moment. And then go on with your day. Return to this practice as many times as you’d like. It is EASY!!!!
For me right now, I am grateful to be writing my first ever blog post! And I am grateful for all the encouragement and support I have received to set this up. This is a big deal for me, since I am a total non-tecchie. I love to write, and I am excited to share more with you all and to discover how easy it is to do. So for now, I send my gratitude to each and everyone of you who is reading this post and doing this exercise. May you truly enjoy this day!