Dr. Chad Sato
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Gratitude comes in layers. With Thanksgiving coming at the end of this month, it’s good to reflect on areas of your life that you are grateful for. Depending on what’s going on in your life, the more benefits you can acknowledge in your life can help you to find more ease and harmony.
Gratitude, along with self-love and self-acceptance, are the three action steps that can lead to overall wellness and resolution of ailments. If you look at how the mind-body works, if you love the good and bad parts of yourself then you won’t judge what you do or don’t do. Along those lines, if you accept who you are and don’t compare yourself to others or your past self, then how can you not be mentally and emotionally at peace, which will be expressed in your body.
How often do you look at how much work your body does for you? If you don’t go to your primary care physician to check your blood work, how do you know your state of health?
I believe that true health stems from being in tune with your body to the degree that you know when stress is impacting you negatively or positively. Body truths show up when you are under stress like: restricted breathing, shortness of breath, muscle tightness, restless sleep, fatigue, brain fog. The quicker you can identify your body’s signals, the better prepared you are to make proactive decisions that can keep you healthy.
This is where having gratitude for your body is essential. The focus of this article is to share how to create a stronger mind-body connection by being grateful to how your body helps you stay balanced physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Growing up in a non-traditional local household, my mother did not let me eat anything with refined sugars, and even sodas were off limits. Back then I felt gypped since all the other kids could have all the M&M’s, sodas and other treats, while I had to settle for homemade granola bars and water with occasional apple juice diluted with water. My father would introduce local foods from time to time like plate lunches and Rainbow’s slush float, but in hindsight, growing up without a sugar craving has served me oh so well.
When I got sick, instead of my mother rushing me to the doctor to get antibiotics, she would give me plenty of water to drink, lots of Vitamin C supplements, get bed rest and feed me a vegetable soup filled with love and care. Not only did I feel cared for, but once I got over my cold in 24 hours and felt more vibrant, I had a greater appreciation for feeling good and that my body was able to work through the sickness. What a powerful experience that has given me the confidence to trust my body’s innate healing wisdom to heal from a cold or flu. For many of you that didn’t have my upbringing, it just takes you to decide whether or not you want to begin trusting your body or to give your power to someone who will determine how to make you better.
How many of you experience stress and then reach for certain comfort foods like chocolate, ice cream or salty chips? How can you achieve emotional balance even during challenging events or situations occurring in your life? This is where you can use your emotions to help you move through the experience instead of getting caught in your mind, replaying the events that either caused you to be angry, sad or in fear. The one thing I have learned through the years is if you do not allow yourself to feel a certain emotion, then you spend the rest of your life avoiding that feeling and create strategies to either suppress or ignore them, which ultimately will erode your health and wellness.
This is where fortifying your ability to feel the full emotional spectrum will benefit you greatly. This is not an easy task, but is truly beneficial in the long term. The scariness of not knowing will disappear since you will know how to move through your emotions instead of just suppressing and avoiding. I have observed that any fear you have will ultimately manifest, and there will be a situation to deal with and experience that fear. As disturbing as this may sound, the more you face your fears, the greater resilience and confidence you build in yourself to deal with anything that comes your way.
Until you can truly embrace gratitude, you can use your mind to start listing out people and elements of your life that you are thankful for. This is where you can use your mind to start making a checklist of the people and things in your day that you are grateful for. A 2005 study performed by Seligman and colleagues in the American Psychologist journal showed evidence that positive psychology practices led to increased happiness. Gratitude journaling was a practice that showed how intent improves your emotional state. However, you must mentally decide and make the effort to cultivate your sense of gratitude. Just writing and describing at least three positive things at the end of your day increased happiness and decreased depression for a full six months. Further proof was shown by a 2010 report by Wood and colleagues published in Clinical Psychology Review, stating how gratitude adds to a person’s wellness.
Other small practices you can choose to do is to make a mental checklist of all the basic things that you have in life such as: a roof over your head, food that you can cook or eat, mobility, good health, electricity to turn on fan or AC, etc. It’s fascinating how we take certain things for granted, but if you add up all the little things in your life, they are indeed blessings.
You have control over what thoughts you entertain in your mind. If you create a daily practice to focus on positive things that has happened in your day, you reduce the negative thoughts that can take away your happiness. The old saying “you get what you focus on” truly makes sense, for example, when you see grumpy people who only see the world as half empty.
Recently I just watched “Live to 100, Secrets of the Blue Zones” on Netflix, and the documentary showcased certain areas of the world with the most centennials or people who tend to live the longest. The first episode focused on Okinawa, and since I am half Okinawan, it particularly sparked my interest. The main gist applies to spiritual gratitude is the term, ikigai. Iki in Japanese means “life,” and gai means “value or worth.” So, in simple terms, ikigai is your reason for living or your life’s purpose. Waking up with a sense of purpose is essential, especially as we get older and for those that have retired.
Many may view spirituality as being religious, but I view spirituality as a choice to live your life fully and to be aligned with your values. So, having a life purpose, I feel, is a necessity if you want to continue to enjoy your life when challenges arise. It’s how you choose to face the adversities – either with anger or grace. Once again, it comes back down to your power to choose. By choosing spiritual gratitude, it is easier to accept the concept that everything happens for you and not to you. When you know your ikigai, it’s harder to be swayed, and you can live your best life even when life throws you lemons.
With the rising costs of living and inflation, comparing yourself to others, I urge you to focus on all the areas of your life you are grateful for. Once again by cultivating a more positive mindset doesn’t mean being delusional and having your head in the clouds but will help you to identify the good things that are abundant versus all the negative. Focus on accepting yourself, loving yourself and, ultimately, being grateful that you have the power to make your life exactly the way you want and choose to live healthy and well.
Dr. Chad Sato graduated from UCLA in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and earned his doctor of chiropractic degree with honors from Life Chiropractic College West in 1998. Sato founded his practice, Aloha Chiropractic (drchadsato.com), in Mānoa valley, O‘ahu, on Oct. 1, 1999. He is a sought-after educator, speaker, author and mind-body specialist who helps people reach new levels of empowerment when it comes to their health and wellness by staying present with their body signs, making appropriate life choices and utilizing stress instead of managing it.