Hear what some of the experts have to say about how expressing gratitude can improve your health, reduce inflammation, create a healthier social network and even improve your sleep.
Gratitude and thankfulness are more than just words, they're a way of thinking and connecting with yourself and others that leads to a more fulfilling life.
In this episode you'll also hear about a fantastic book that reveals research on 9 key elements that are common to cancer survivors who have experienced medically unfounded recovery from their disease.
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Read Full Transcript Below:
It’s thanksgiving week and one of my favorite things to do when I have some extra time off is to read a good book. During the week and I am obsessed with listening to audiobooks because I just don’t have any spare time to sit down and read and it's a great way to get in some good reads. But I’ll always love the action of cuddling up on the couch with a good book and since it is a four day weekend I have an amazing book that I would like to recommend to you.
It's called radical remission by Kelly A. Turner PhD. This book is awesome and whether you have or have had cancer or even if you are dealing with some other form of dis ease in your body I cannot recommend this book enough.
Dr. Turner was a researcher and counselor in integrative oncology and while she was working on her PHD at UC Berkeley, she came across a patient in an advanced stage of cancer who was the mother to two young children and she asked Dr. Turner what she had to do to get well. This started Turner on a research mission to discover what other patients who had been healed of cancer using complementary or alternative therapies had done to contribute to their own healing.
What she discovered after reading more than 1000 cases and interviewing 100 of these patients was that across approximately 75 different actions that people took there were 9 things that were common to all of them as they worked to heal themselves.
This book is about those 9 things and the stories of several of these survivors with respect to their experiences with conventional medical treatment and their journey with alternative and complementary healing modalities.
The nine common lifestyle changes Dr. Turner found were:
One of the reasons that I loved this book is that I agree 100% with all of these reasons. These are the most common areas that I work with people on so it was actually very validating to read this and very exciting to listen to the stories of success.
I also felt reminded of a few areas that I know to be important but that i know I have allowed to slip a little here and there as I get further along in my survival and more caught up in my busy life. So it was very inspiring and motivating to listen to the stories in this book.
I also really like how Dr. Turner emphasizes taking a responsible approach to each of these steps and working with a trusted and open minded medical team.
The bottom line here is that our bodies have an innate ability to heal themselves and when we take the steps to create an optimal environment, the healing will begin to take care of itself. This is important to remember even if you are in remission. It's important to continually check in with yourself to ensure that you are doing everything you can to support the healthiest version of you.
So when you’re wiped out after that Turkey dinner, I highly recommend finding a cozy spot and reading or listening to Radical Remission. As always, I will post a link to this book on the show notes page for your reference.
In keeping with the theme of Thanksgiving today I want to talk about the science of gratitude and the impact that being thankful and happy has on your health. Interestingly, this was one of the bullet points from the book Radical remission, Increasing positive emotions.
Here are some insights from Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis and the worlds leading scientific expert on gratitude, the author of several books on gratitude and emotional prosperity and the editor in chief of the journal of positive psychology.
Dr emmons tells us that one of the things that improves in our lives as a result of gratitude is that we sleep better and longer. The reason for this is that people who are grateful tend to have more positive thoughts before they go to bed. This is another reason why keeping a gratitude journal and writing in it before bed is beneficial for your health. In fact
A 2016 study published in psychosomatic medicine showed that people who practiced gratitude journaling had improved biomarkers and reduced inflammation compared to those who did not journal.
Another beneficial aspect of gratitude is that in expressing gratitude, you have to take some kind of action to recognize what you are grateful for and who you are are grateful towards. Again, this goes back to that list of nine key factors in radical remission.Embracing social support. When you express gratitude your saying thank you, you’re allowing others to do a kindness for you and you’re embracing that kindness rather than pushing it away.
One of the stories that I loved in that book was that of a successful Japanese businessman with metastatic kidney cancer. He talks about the changes he made in his life and even though his healing was amazing he still had some cancer in his body until he spent a month teaching a retreat in Scotland where he says he was overwhelmed with the amount of hugs he received from the people there. Because hugging was not something he was used to in his culture. He was blown away with the love that he experienced when people were hugging him and when he returned to japan his next CT scan showed that he was clear of cancer.
So stop saying no when people reach out to you. Don’t feel like a burden but know that when someone want to support you it's their way of showing love to you. Let them love you before during and after treatment. The stronger your social connections are and more love you have in your life the healthier you will be.
Here’s a really cool Ayurvedic analogy. In sanskrit, the word Sneha means love and it also means oil. A very big part of a daily ayurvedic lifestyle routine is that practice of abhyanga or oil massage. So notice how the practice of touch and practicing both self massage and receiving warm oil massage is so closely related to love and both are foundational to good health.
According to Dr Emmons, gratitude is also the antidote to entitlement even at work. Here’s a quote from an October 2017 article by Dr emmons in greater good magazine titled
Three Surprising Ways That Gratitude Works at Work “Gratitude produces higher levels of positive emotions that are beneficial in the workplace, such as joy, enthusiasm, and optimism, and lower levels of the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness.”
Cool right? And this is also the practice of increasing positive emotions.
So how do we keep the practice of gratitude going once the turkey is done and everyone has left you behind to clean the dishes while they’re napping and watching football in the other room?
Six Habits of Highly Grateful People
JEREMY ADAM SMITH outlined some practices to help keep gratitude going all year long.
#1 occasionally think about death and loss. At first this one sounds a little bizarre but when you stop to really think about it this really means get into the practice of knowing that every moment could be our last and never take those moments for granted.
We really have to get over the fear of death and accept that not only is it inevitable but contemplating loss helps us to be even more grateful for life and for the loved ones in our life. So surrender to the knowledge that life is a temporary state of being and be grateful for every single moment.
#2 Take time to smell the roses. How can you feel gratitude for blessings that you don’t even notice? It is imperative that you take time each day to slow down or god forbid STOP just for a few moments and notice your life. Notice the beautiful world around you. Recognize that today is brand new. How exciting is that? It's a day that you have never experienced and it brings with it the potential for anything.
This is the practice of living mindful, of being fully present in your life and when you do that you’ll start to notice even more things to be grateful for. The smell of morning coffee, the perfect creamy skin of your childs or grandchild’s face, the fact that your dog loves you no matter what. Its the simple things in life that mean the most right.
#3 grateful people view the good things in life as gifts and not birthrights. Like I said a few minutes ago, the antidote to entitlement is gratitude? I consider myself to be very fortunate to get to live just a couple of miles from the ocean. I often drive along the coast on my way to a yoga class or dinner or to a friend’s house and I think how did this happen. Why did my life get to be the one where I live with so much beauty, safety and comfort.
What a blessing that is and although my husband and I work hard to be able to live here but I know of a lot of people who bust their butts just as hard or harder than I do yet for some reason I got to have this life. What are those special moments in your life? The simple things that have been gifted to you. Try to notice them every day because they really are precious,
#4 They're grateful to other people not just for things. In the example above although I’m grateful for the beautiful ocean that I get to see often I’m also grateful to my husband for the hard work he puts in to contribute to our livelihood. I’m grateful to the people I work with for the trust they put in me that allows me to practice the work that I love.
You need to express that gratitude to others because it makes them feel good and it strengthens that bond that connects us all.
#5 They mention pancakes
Ok, even though I have always referred to pancakes as a happy food, this is really about more than just pancakes this habit is about being specific when you express gratitude to others. Its recognizing the little things and pointing them out like saying I’m so grateful for you and how you make me banana pancakes on my birthday.
And one thing that I have always noticed about this is that when you point out your appreciation for specific thing, it not only makes people feel good that you recognized it but it might just get you pancakes more often! Keto diets be damned.
And finally, the 6th habit of highly grateful people…
Thanking outside the box. This one is not for the faint of heart nor is it one to be taken glibly. This is the type of gratitude that we use to get through tough times. To try to see challenging situations through a different perspective For example. Having cancer is not something most of us would say we are grateful for. But, after processing everything that is encompassed in this experience you might look at and realize that because of having cancer you changed your life in some way or met or got to know someone in a different way that you are grateful for. Perhaps its something that would have never happened had you not had cancer.
I know that I wouldn’t be here talking on this podcast today if I had not had cancer. I am grateful for my family bonds that grew even stronger because I had cancer. I’m grateful for the amazing people that I have met and for the incredible survivors whose lives I have been honored to be invited into and for the dear friends whose brave fight may have been lost but whose memories will inspire me to grateful for every single breath I have here in this life.
I’m grateful to each and everyone of you who take the time to listen to these podcasts and I wish for you a full happy, healthy holiday and a life full of gratitude. I’d love to hear what you're grateful for and how you practice gratitude in your life. So, if you’re not a part of my Facebook community please find me Laura Lummer on Facebook and twitter and the breast cancer recovery coach on Instagram.
Check out my website lauralummer.com where you can download my free ebook, 6 habits of healthy happy breast cancer survivors. And if you enjoy this podcast please take the time to leave a positive review on iTunes to make it easier for other survivors to find it too.
Until next time, let your lifestyle be your medicine.