The Gratitude-Exercise-Sleep Connection!
(part three of a five part series on gratitude and nutrition)
This week’s post brings us back to our conversation on Primary Foods, with our focus on physical activity! (For more on primary foods, check out The Four Areas of Your Life You Need to Be Feeding).
Physical activity is one of the primary foods your body must have to stay in balance.
According to a study done by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, two of the leading researchers in positive psychology, people who kept a weekly gratitude journal over a nine week period reported spending 19% more time exercising than those who didn’t keep gratitude journals.
To understand why this happens, let’s take a look at one of the many physiological effects practicing gratitude has on the body:
Engaging in thoughts of gratitude has been proven to boost levels of serotonin in the body.
Low levels of serotonin can cause loneliness and depression and can also trigger carbohydrate and sugar cravings, causing a viscous cycle of ups and downs.
When you boost serotonin naturally through your gratitude practice, however, you are effectively giving yourself the energy you need to get out and exercise. I don’t know about you but I find it much easier to exercise when my mood and energy are up.)
When you exercise, your body produces even more serotonin, as well as endorphins which lift your mood even more (think “runner’s high.”)
Along with physical activity, our bodies also need adequate sleep. What many people don’t realize is that when you sleep, your body is actually working to remove toxins and balance hormones. So when you deny your body sleep, your hormones can quickly get out of balance causing you to crave sugar and other comfort foods in lieu of exercise.
Researchers at the National Institute of Health discovered that feelings of gratitude activate the hypothalamus which is responsible for many essential bodily functions including sleep. The hypothalamus has a huge affect on metabolism, stress and eating.
Another crucial aspect of practicing gratitude – something I know to be true from my own experience– is that when I’m focused on what I’m grateful for, including my body, I find it easy to reward myself with a good night’s sleep, prioritizing my health and happiness over work or other distractions. I’m also more likely to see exercise as something I “get to” do rather than something I “should” do, and I choose activities I enjoy the most, like yoga or going for a brisk walk along the water.
So it’s easy to see how a simple 5 minute daily gratitude practice can lead to more exercise and better sleep, more energy and a better mood, and ultimately greater health and happiness for yourself!
For more info on how to get started with your gratitude practice, click here: Getting Started with Gratitude!
So now I’d like to hear from you! Please share in the comments below, or on my Facebook page, how gratitude helps you exercise more or sleep better.