By Dr. Isaac Eliaz, MD, LAc.
Studies Show that Gratitude Can Improve Health
Feeling and expressing gratitude for life and all of its circumstances, goes hand in hand with the motivation to work toward health and wellbeing. Fascinating new research shows that feelings of gratitude help improve physiological well-being, reduce stress hormones and benefit other areas of health. Gratitude, simply put, encourages healing — and a more enjoyable way of life.
Finding Motivation and Gratitude During Difficult Times
But what if we have a chronic illness, or any life threatening challenge? In these all-too-common circumstances, it can seem extremely difficult to find the motivation to benefit ourselves and others, much less feel gratitude for such hardships. How do we find the motivation to “think positively” and be grateful for these difficulties?
First of all, it’s very important to be honest with ourselves. Frustration and upset over our hardships is real and natural, and it’s important to respect these feelings without covering them up under a thin layer of positive thinking, just because people tell us to “keep a positive attitude.” Being honest with ourselves, and allowing our true feelings to be expressed, is the foundation for having authentic motivation.
The Peeling Process
It’s equally as important, however, not to identify ourselves with our difficulties — not to internalize our suffering and make it more painful. Remember, we are not our illness/condition/circumstance. One way to move through such challenges is to allow our feelings to flow freely without overindulging in them, and begin to experience a peeling process.
There is very real truth to the philosophy which states that crisis presents opportunity for healing on all levels — physical, mental, emotional and psycho-spiritual. This is part of the “peeling process,” where layers of distractions seem to peel away or vanish during crisis, and our inner truths can be revealed. In fact, many people would not experience the same growth, or transformations, without such challenges.
The Energetics of Motivation
What are the motivating forces at work here? Part of giving rise to motivation is the recognition that all beings want the same thing. As a meditation practitioner who teaches basic meditation and healing to patients, health practitioners and the general community, I always emphasize the importance of understanding that all beings are united by our natural fears and desires. We all want to be happy and likewise, we all experience suffering. It’s the truth of our existence.
The goal for healing and growth is to liberate ourselves from our hopes and fears, to cut through our attachments and aversions, to give rise to greater love and compassion. This in turn can generate authentic motivation and energy to benefit ourselves and others.
Though it may seem contradictory, it is this sense of detachment from our circumstances that can bring about a much deeper, more profound state of awareness and experience of life. And if we can heal ourselves, it inspires us to benefit others, like a bucket overflowing with water. That’s part of giving rise to authentic motivation, and it comes from the heart.
In my clinic, I am constantly inspired and deeply heartened by my patients’ courage, strength and conviction to heal and transform from their illnesses. It’s true that the crisis of a frightening diagnosis can be a motivating factor to make changes in life for the better. But there is a deeper motivation that happens when people fighting an illness find true healing — even in the absence of a ‘cure.’ They prove that “illness is not a failure.” In other words, despite their diagnosis or condition, they’ve uncovered a deeper meaning and appreciation of life, a more profound awareness, a greater love and compassion for themselves and others. They come to experience a vastly improved quality of life for themselves and those around them. The motivation to heal with a heart-centered approach, to follow a path of unconditional love and compassion, is for many patients what encourage their innate healing capacities to bloom.
By following our healing paths with authentic motivation– regardless of the issue — we have the potential to benefit ourselves and others in the greatest possible way. Because true healing, no matter which health program we follow, is about uncovering greater love and compassion, thereby allowing our innate healing capacities to flourish. In this way, we overflow our cups with unconditional love and gratitude, and effortlessly offer this healing energy to ourselves and everyone around us.
Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season.