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How To: Interrupt Anxiety With Gratitude



“Can changing how you think about stress make you healthier?

The science says yes.

When you change your mind about stress,

you can change your body’s response to stress.”

— Kelly McGonigal

 

The past month, I started this new challenge for myself to practice thankfulness — #100daysofgratitude via Instagram. Everyday I share through my stories what I’m grateful for. Sometimes its really simple like the food on my plate or waking up with a roof over my head, and some days are more introspective as I dig deeper. Like being thankful for recognizing family I don’t vibe with and showing me who I don’t want to become.

I started this challenge because I’ve always dealt with anxiety. It comes in different forms, but especially as I get older I’ve been harder on myself for not meeting my expectations. Because of this practice, it has invited in the inquiry of turning those expectations into appreciation. It’s been powerful so far. So, this is what I’ve learned and am learning about this practice.

First, is understanding that every time anxiety or stress shows up, it’s our psyche’s way of bopping us square in the head (and heart) with a cosmic two-by-four. Showing us something about ourselves that we really should take a look at. Its our wake up call, asking us to get in front of that trigger and change that internal programming.

Research shows that gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that regulates anxiety. It controls a huge array of essential bodily functions, including eating, drinking and sleeping. It also has a huge influence on your metabolism and cortisol levels (the stress hormone). The stress hormone, in my opinion, is the number one health enemy. Elevated cortisol levels interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease and more. According to the CDC, the number one cause of death is heart disease. Hmmm. If stress has any influence on that factor, there is something you can do here, right now. If you are prone to anxiety attacks, the following is a helpful life hack.

 

Change Your Posture.

Our bodies change our minds

and our minds can change our behaviour,

and our behaviour can change our outcomes.

Stand tall with feet apart, take up space.

Bring your hands on your hips

and with every conscious breath,

puff up your chest like Superman.

Chin up.

Stay here for as long as its needed.

 

Standing like a superhero for as little as two minutes changes our testosterone and cortisol levels, increases our appetite for risk, causes us to perform better in job interviews, and generally reconfigures our brain to cope well in stressful situations. The fact is, your stress responses are helpful. It’s not the stress or anxiety that takes over, its our relationship with it that does. If you believe that you are stressed, you will create symptoms that follow suit. Change those beliefs, change your life.

The brain loves to fall for the confirmation bias—it looks for things that prove what it already believes to be true. So once you shift your perspective from self-absorption to a grateful heart, your brain starts to look for more things to be thankful for. This is the goal, to interrupt anxiety with gratitude.

If you're interested in this challenge, you don't have to do it over social media, you can journal or simply voice one thing outloud everyday. For me, I use social media as an accountability tool so I make sure I take that moment to reflect. And sometimes I forget, until I remember I haven't posted yet which means I haven't practiced yet. Do what works for you!

xx

From one superhero to another.


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