How Gratitude and Goal Setting Play a Unique Role in Health
Ellen White, IIN Content Writer
Gratitude and goal setting are healthy lifestyle practices.
Gratitude and goal setting are foundational wellness tools that affect health and healing. Both influence the heart and mind in significant ways, promoting a positive outlook, optimistic attitude, and sense of purpose.
Gratitude, the quality of being thankful as well as possessing a readiness to share appreciation for people, places, or things, is a simple practice we can cultivate on a daily basis. Goal setting involves the development of an action plan designed to motivate and guide a person or group toward a desired outcome or achievement.
We’re going to dive deeper into the practices of gratitude and goal setting and how they can enrich your health. Simply put, implementing a gratitude practice can put you on the path to reaching your goals, whatever they may be!
The health benefits of cultivating gratitude
Gratitude is all about taking time each day to think about the positive things in your life. This doesn’t mean you’re ignoring negative things or situations – you’re simply choosing to reframe your perspective and focus on the positive. By doing so, you can better diffuse negative thought patterns and behaviors and activate many positive physical and mental health benefits, including:
- Enhanced positive emotions and behaviors, such as happiness, appreciation, patience, empathy, and humility
- Fewer toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, and regret
- More satisfaction, presence, and resilience with less of a need to focus on materialistic endeavors
- Reduced bodily inflammation
- Better sleep
- Improved blood pressure, total cholesterol, and blood sugar control
It’s no surprise that gratitude touches all the main areas of our life – what we at IIN call primary food, the things that nourish us off the plate, such as career, spiritual practices, home environment, joy, and many more. Through the practice of gratitude, we’re able to show a deeper appreciation for everything in our lives.
For example, there are the external things we usually point to when asked what we’re grateful for – a roof over our heads or our friends and family. These are important, for sure, but when you practice gratitude enough, you’ll be able to find even more to be grateful for – the home you created for yourself and your family that makes you feel safe and at peace, your ability to think on your feet during stressful situations, or your comforting nature when a friend or colleague is in need.
Our ongoing practice of gratitude is what fuels our resilience, or the ability to get through difficult situations with strength, courage, and determination. Gratitude also allows us to manage stress and strong emotions, promoting a relaxed state of being. Our career performance gets a boost with better management skills, improved decision making, and increased productivity.
Gratitude is like an elixir to soothe our heart and mind in times of need and well beyond!
The health benefits of goal setting
Setting goals takes us toward an idea of the future, or a desired result, that we envision, plan, and commit to achieve. It helps direct and focus our thoughts, especially since we can get easily overwhelmed with our daily to-do lists, whether at home or at work. Setting goals, especially S.M.A.R.T. goals, helps us cultivate a sense of purpose that will not only benefit ourselves but everyone around us!
When setting goals, many people start big and then experience major disappointment when they ultimately fail. Think: New Year’s resolutions revolving around desired weight loss. It’s not because the large goal wasn’t achievable, but rather it lacked the structure and accountability a person needs to reach such a goal, especially a health-related one.
In general, a goal-setting practice requires:
- Long-term vision
- Scheduling, planning, and direction
- Short-term motivation
- Accountability and guidance
So how do you actually put this practice into practice? Let’s start with an example: Because your doctor says you are at risk for developing heart disease, your goal is to lose weight and lower your total cholesterol through natural interventions. This is a typical goal many clients bring to their Health Coaches because they are the perfect health professionals to provide accountability, guidance, and support.
Long-term vision – You know that losing weight and lowering your cholesterol won’t happen overnight, but you can see a future where your health is no longer as large a concern as it is now. You can use a vision board or simply write your overall goal on a piece of paper and stick it somewhere you’ll see it often.
Scheduling, planning, and direction – To reach the long-term goal, it’s beneficial to set “mini goals” to track your progress and make the larger goal feel more manageable — they will serve as landmarks on your journey! Write down your large and mini goals; you can even create your own “goal journal” that you look forward to recording your achievements in.
You’ll work with your Health Coach, as well as your doctor and any other health professionals, such as a nutritionist or dietitian, to determine the things you’ll need to do daily to reach your mini goals, which will ultimately lead to the long-term goal. This could look like creating an exercise regimen, meal planning, and prioritizing sleep and self-care. You’ll regroup with your Health Coach and others at regular intervals to check in on your progress.
Short-term motivation – How will you stay motivated to keep up with your mini goals and, in turn, your larger goal? Instead of turning to a usual reward of food or treats, this is where gratitude comes in! As you embark on your new diet and lifestyle, take note of how you feel physically and mentally and let those feelings serve as a reminder of how far you’ve come. Perhaps you feel less fatigued and have more energy from eating and sleeping better, and your mood has improved with regular exercise. These things go a long way in realizing how great you’ll feel when you reach your goal!
Accountability and guidance – You’re human, and you’re bound to hit a roadblock or two. That’s where a Health Coach, as well as your friends, family, and whoever you trust, comes in! Let them share your journey with you – they may have valuable advice to provide along the way and help keep your motivation up during the especially challenging times.
Commitment – There’s a saying, “Don’t look back; you’re not going that way.” Staying focused on the present and looking to the future are important to remind yourself of your commitment to yourself and your health. Gratitude can also help you stay strong in your commitment as you’re reminding yourself each day of the positive elements of the journey.
As you can see, goal setting doesn’t just set up necessary structure but also triggers new behaviors by rewiring our brains to think differently! These kinds of adjustments go a long way in promoting mental health as it helps us break down challenges into digestible pieces that can be applied to any area of our lives. The focus and determination needed on a short- and long-term basis helps us align our focus and promotes a sense of self-mastery.
Where gratitude and goal setting meet
Cultivating gratitude and setting S.M.A.R.T. goals:
- Improve with time and practice
- Can be learned and refined
- Demonstrate a desire to embark on a journey of self-improvement
- Emphasize the importance of the IIN concepts of bio-individuality and primary food
Bio-individuality means there is no “one-size-fits-all” plan for anyone – the foods you eat, the exercise you do, and the environment you thrive in are unique to every individual. That means everyone will have their own gratitude and goal-setting routines that address their individual issues.
When it comes to nourishing ourselves with primary food, gratitude and goal setting can influence us to achieve healthier relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career, and a spiritual practice. As you hone your gratitude practice and goal-setting skills, you’ll find that your life feels more balanced and satiating. When our life feeds us, it makes what we eat secondary. This shift is profoundly important when it comes to resolving issues in both heart and mind.
How Health Coaches can support these practices
As a Health Coach, encouraging clients to adopt a gratitude practice can go a long way in helping them reach their health goals as well as being a positive practice to adopt yourself as a coach! Expressing gratitude for what you have, both physically and emotionally, is one of the best ways to alleviate anxiety and bring your focus back to the present. A great way to do this is to simply say three things you’re grateful for out loud, or write them in a journal if possible.
Health Coaches have the unique opportunity to show their clients that our physical bodies are mirrors of the many areas of our health – interpersonal, spiritual, professional, sexual, creative, financial, environmental, mental, and emotional. To achieve true whole-person health, we must determine the inner mechanisms promoting or inhibiting the health of these areas or we can’t successfully heal or live a healthy and balanced life. Incorporating a consistent gratitude and goal-setting practice is one of the best ways to remedy imbalance and improve health and happiness.
Ellen White is a 2016 IIN graduate, freelance writer, and small business owner. She has written for several yoga and health-related publications, including Yoga International, Rebelle Society, Elephant Journal, and Yogi Times. Currently, she is in the process of opening a wellness smoothie business preparing supplement-infused smoothies in East Fort Lauderdale. She also works remotely for VIDA, a digital health platform, as a bilingual Health Coach. Learn more at ellenmaxwhite.com.