January marks that time of year when we make resolutions, or if you have been reading my column, you set intentions. Do you ever wonder why the beginning of a new year ramps things up so much? I do understand that a new year suggests new beginnings, opportunities and habits.
One of the things most of us commit to is weight loss, improved health and fitness, the latest diet or eating program be it paleo, vegan, gluten free or some other version of any of these. Interestingly when it comes to nutrition, we generally consider the physical nutrients we take in; we fail to consider what nourishment our emotional, mental or spiritual side may require. I am about to propose a re-frame for the word diet, one that requires you to think beyond the parameters of calories consumed, fat or carbohydrate content, or the Canadian Food Guide.
Introducing the G.R.A.C.E. Diet, a program designed to refuel your spirit, add to your emotional resilience, and lift you from the challenges of living in this chaotic world. The GRACE Diet was developed as part of the ME FIRST Playbook published in 2011. It was relevant then, perhaps even more so today.
Over the next five months I will be introducing the different components of the G.R.A.C.E. Diet. That allows you to consider, practice and integrate each component into your life until it becomes a habit. As an introduction to what is to come, here are the individual components in summary:
Four days ago, I found myself listening to an interview with Oprah Winfrey on the occasion of her 70th birthday and induction into the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. She traced her origins from rural Mississippi, raised by her grandmother, her eventual move to Chicago, her rise to fame thought 25 years as host to the Oprah Winfrey Show, acting, producing and more. The question posed of course is how does someone raised in poverty and a “racialized south” rise to such heights. Her synthesized answer was gratitude. Quoting Oprah, “Gratitude is my spiritual practice’. I wake up in the morning and the first thing I say to myself and my higher power is ‘thank you’ and the last thing I say at night before going to bed is ‘thank you’.
As a facilitator/coach, I have been teaching about gratitude and its benefits for over 20 years. What I loved about Oprah’s synthesis is the simplicity,gratitude is a spiritual practice. And yes, you could say that success is not that simple and you would be right. I simply can attest to the effect that gratitude has had in my life, a practice that I have embraced for over 25 years. Before I continue, let me share with you some of the science behind gratitude.
The Science of Gratitude
Gratitude offers us a way of embracing all that makes our lives what they are. More than just a happy feeling for the parts of our lives currently going our way, gratitude encompasses the willingness to expand our attention so that we perceive more of the goodness we are always receiving. (Misty Pratt, February 2022)
In the past two decades, a growing body of evidence in the field of social science has found that gratitude has measurable benefits for just about every area of our lives. Gratitude appears to contribute substantially to individual well-being and physical health and has been described as the “social glue” key to building and nurturing strong relationships.
Gratitude is more than just a momentary good feeling. Scientists who have studied written gratitude interventions, such as gratitude letters or journals, have found benefits for an individual’s mental health and well-being. Gratitude practices also appear to help you feel more satisfied in life and can boost your self-esteem.
Making Gratitude a Daily Practice
I still find it remarkable that such a simple tool can improve the quality of one’s life. After reading Simple Abundance by Sara Bon Breathnach back in the mid-nineties, I began my gratitude journey with daily journaling and listing the 5 or more ‘gratitudes’ each day. In the beginning this was a challenge. I had recently retired from health care and started my business, it was an unknown landscape to me, there were many pitfalls and hiccups and I was constantly worried about how my new life was going to unfold. I was also highly critical of myself and how I was approaching business. Then a wake-up call, an assignment from Simple Abundance to keep a gratitude journal for the next 30 days. I began putting pen to paper that day, and did not stop for several years. What I realized was that I was so caught up in negative talk, I could not see the goodness unfolding around me, whether that was an amazing sunset, a V of snow geese on the horizon, an act of kindness or noticing that I had had a positive impact that day.
When pen and paper were not available, especially the year I commuted form North Lancaster to downtown Montreal, I would begin my morning drive in silence, talking out loud to myself, setting my intentions for the day and reciting my gratitudes. It never failed, even my bleakest moods shifted, I shifted, my energy cleared. When I no longer felt the need to journal, I turned to going to bed a few minutes early and reviewing my gratitude list for that day. Esther Hicks, who channels Abraham, once shared that she places her gratitude in her pillow every night and falls asleep in gratitude. YES!
These days Jim and I share gratitudes as a blessing before our evening meal. Before we raise our forks to chow down, we simply share with each other 5-6 gratitudes for the day. This practice holds our attention on all the good things in our life and mitigates all the noise of the world around us.
I leave you with this challenge, begin a gratitude practice today and make a point of embedding this in your daily routine. The options: Journaling, morning gratitudes and intentions, evening gratitudes before falling asleep, shared gratitudes with your partner and/or family members before a meal, initiate a gratitude practice at work with colleagues. All options work.
Gratitude is an intention, a practice and energy; a simple tool to enhance your life and the first component of the G.R.A.C.E.Diet. Until Next time,
Betty Healey, MEd., CAPP