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Health & Fitness: Being Gratuitous is Contagious

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By Kim Duke, NETA & AAFA Certified Trainer

There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel inundated by negativity.  This year’s election has saturated our social media and daily conversations.  I dread turning on the morning news and typically end up turning it off as soon as it turns to politics.

All this negativity can literally zap your energy, transform your mood and affect your overall health.

While doing my research for ways to “Turn that frown upside down…” I came across a piece on ‘gratitude’.

Remember these sayings-

Count your blessings.

Consider yourself lucky.

Thank you.

These were all directives our parents and grandparents gave us so that we would grow into decent people with decent manners.

It turns out that the same advice also helps make our brains and body healthier.

“There is a magnetic appeal to gratitude,” says Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, and a pioneer of gratitude research.  “It speaks to a need that’s deeply entrenched.”

Meaning, we need to give thanks and to be thanked, just as it’s important to feel respected and connected socially.

According to Louisa Kamps, author of, What Gratitude Can Do For You,  “From an evolutionary perspective, feeling of gratitude is what helps to bind communities together.  When people appreciate the goodness they’ve received, they feel a need to give back.  This interdependence allows not only an individual but also society as a whole to prosper and to survive.”

As we have seen all too clearly, it is easy in these modern times to forget to be thankful or even gracious.  We’re too distracted, too self-entitled and often too disconnected to others around us.

Kamps adds, “By disconnecting from others we often suffer from consequences such as loneliness, anger or even a less robust immune system.”

So what can be done?  Let’s try making a concerted and consistent effort to notice and appreciate the good things flowing to us- from the crunch of autumn leaves to small gestures of appreciation toward co-workers, family and friends.  Just today, I received an unexpected gratuitous statement about a new style of training I have implemented. It was unexpected, but sure made me feel great all day.

Focus on being a nicer person.  “People can’t help but pay it forward.  When appreciation is expressed, it triggers a biological response in the recipient’s brain, including a surge of the feel-good chemical dopamine,” says Emmons.  So when you express gratitude toward a loved one, a colleague or a friend, he or she is grateful in return, and the back-and–forth continues.

In a time so marred by negativity, look to the things that are close by and tangible.  Be thankful for your blessings and say a sincere “thank you” to the next person you see.  You may be surprised at how contagious being gratuitous can be.

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