Is Gratitude Part of Your Diet?
by Evan DeMarco on Jun 07, 2022
When choosing a new diet, the fundamental goal is always to become healthier. No matter which diet we decide is best for us in any given phase of our lives—and there is no shortage of options from which to choose—the core objective is to eat the foods that best nurture our bodies as we strive toward a particular health goal. That may mean getting more protein or less sugar, cutting carbs or processed foods, choosing to eat only foods produced by local farmers or artisans or something else together.
While thinking more critically about what we’re eating and how those foods are supporting or interfering with our health goals is certainly important, many of us forget to consider the importance of our mindsets in achieving our health goals—that is, we need to consider how we eat. As you’ll see below, research has shown that intentionally incorporating gratitude into your day can improve mental and physical health, as well as help you make more consistent healthy choices for your body and the planet. Read on to learn how gratitude can enhance your diet and transform your overall health.
The science of gratitude
Gratitude, stripped down to its most basic definition, is the state of being thankful and appreciative. Easy enough, right? But while it’s likely that each and every one of us is grateful for a whole host of things, in the hustle and bustle of our modern world, it’s easy to get swept up in the daily grind and breeze past actually feeling gratitude. And that’s the key element of the equation.
Gratitude has been shown to improve our creativity in solving problems, become more resilient when facing difficult situations, improve cognitive function and feel more deeply connected to those around us. It’s also linked to improved sleep, increased happiness and reduced levels of anxiety and depression. Individuals who report high levels of gratitude typically feel fewer aches and pains, meaning they are more likely to exercise regularly and make positive health choices, allowing them to remain healthier over time than less grateful people.
So, while we may feel like carving out time to sit in gratitude isn’t as high a priority as the other items on our daily to-do list, perhaps the far-reaching implications of these benefits provide a strong case for individual gratitude practices as an act of social good.
How gratitude can transform your diet
Incorporating gratitude into our daily lives not only improves our overall health and wellbeing in the ways outlined above—it can also improve the absorption of nutrients and digestion at mealtimes. Living in such a fast-paced world, many of us use mealtime for productivity or employ dissociative relaxation tactics, pulling us away from experiencing what we’re eating.
For example, we eat breakfast while on our phones preparing for the day ahead, use lunch breaks to meet a fast-approaching deadline and spend dinner scrolling social media feeds to unwind after a hectic day or get ahead on tomorrow’s workload. This inattention at mealtimes means we’re not experiencing the full sensory experience of our meals, are likely anxious as we eat and end up missing all our body’s fullness cues, often leading to overeating and disruptions in the digestive process, no matter how healthy our meals are.
By instead using mealtimes as intentional moments to pause and experience gratitude, we shift our eating experience entirely, allowing us to connect to our bodies and the foods we’re eating. In observing the diversity of colors, textures, flavors and scents at work in your meal, you’re more likely to eat slowly and enjoy each element. By enjoying each element, you’re likely to be more intentional about the ingredients you’re choosing when shopping for food.
We’ve already learned that gratitude increases our sense of connection to those around us—by applying this principle to our diets, we are more likely to feel that we’re in a direct relationship with the planet and local farmers and artisans when practicing gratitude at mealtimes, driving us toward those products again and again.
It’s easy to think that our diets are just about what we eat, but hopefully you’re beginning to see the deep connection between our physical health and the mindset with which we approach the foods we consume. Incorporating gratitude reminds us that food doesn’t simply appear at the grocery store. Each ingredient is part of a complex food system, and not all of them support our health or the health of the planet in the same way.
By tapping into gratitude, we improve our physical and mental health, and also become inspired to seek out more ethical and regenerative options that further enhance our health and the health of the environment.