Cultivating Gratitude for the Body
By: Lisa Templeton, Ph.D.
     There are so many reasons to be grateful in our lives. We are all blessed beyond measure and the more we acknowledge the various blessings in our lives, the greater the payback. The benefits of gratitude are scientifically proven in a host of clinical studies. Check out this link for more information. When we understand that gratitude affects the body in so many amazing ways, it's hard to deny that there are great benefits to cultivating more gratitude in our lives.
     One of the most difficult things to be grateful for is actually giving thanks for our own body. This beautifully complex machine gets us from point A to point B and carries our heart, brain and soul for us our entire lives. Our body provides us with our senses, intellect, emotions as well as movement, sensation and abilities.
     Even with the experiential gifts our bodies give us, we can easily become frustrated with it as it is constantly changing throughout our lifespan from childhood to adolescence, middle age to old age all the way until death. Our bodies don’t always do for us what we want it to do. It also requires a lot of maintenance and attention. It needs continuous sleep, water, food and check-ups. It is a never-ending cycle of caring for our bodies as it continues to change daily. Just when we think we might have our body managed, something else changes that we must adapt to. And then there is gravity slowly pulling at our skin and changing what we see in the mirror to someone we never thought we would be. Various aches and pains can start up for no apparent reason at all as we continue to age (or even when we are young) and certain body parts don't work as well or at all anymore.
     Another common frustration with the body is that there are likely aspects of our body that don’t measure up in our society. We move into comparing our body with other bodies and then we inevitably fall short. Even those with perfect bodies find something wrong with them and there is always someone else somewhere with a more “perfect’ body we can strive for. Yet, all perfect body’s age and move with gravity.
     It's difficult to be grateful for our body when it has so many needs and demands and with it generally not meeting the standards of what we would call ideal. However, this is the only vessel we are getting in this life. It's not as though we can trade this in for another model when we get sick of it or want something new. This is what we have to work with. We must be grateful for it.
     Many of us can be critical of our body and focus on the negative aspects of it, which can lead to a negative script in our mind when it comes to thinking about our body. We often use the mind to distract from the discomfort and/or dislike of our body. Many people live their lives from the neck and up. Let’s face it, the mind’s imagination can divert attention from aches, pains or uncomfortable emotions in the body regularly. This happens so often that we let our thoughts take the focus off the body completely and it gets totally ignored along with emotions, sensations and general experience of the body. When we ignore our body, it becomes frustrated and sad. It may even start to develop symptoms to draw your attention back to it – to get you to listen. We can be preoccupied by the mind analyzing life’s situations and completely forget the amazing things our body offers us.
     Consider the astonishing abilities of our body and the many functions that work automatically without our conscious attention needed. With all that we must do to maintain our body, can you imagine having to consciously work through our digestive process, fire neurons or stay focused on keeping our hearts beating? These automatic functions working normally and regularly is something we can focus on being thankful for. There are likely antibodies fighting off disease in your body as you read this – your body is working for you to keep you healthy and alive. The essence of life that lives within our body is a glorious thing! It is an amazing and wondrous aspect of our existence. Feel your pulse beating on its own and give thanks!
     Often, we don’t consider how much we need our body in order to survive. Much like when we focus on the difficult aspects of life, we find lack. The more lack we focus on, the more frustration and resistance we feel. Well, we tend to do the same with our body, focusing on what’s not working and the criticisms of the body.
     When we focus on the abundance and brilliance of our body and give thanks for what it is doing for each of us 24 hours a day our entire life, even in the face of health or pain issues, we are able to fully see something about our body that we have to be grateful for. When we can find something about our body to be grateful for, we can start loving it. When we have love and gratitude for our body, we will find that our body begins to love us back. Our mind and our body can start to work together and as you listen more closely to what your body is needing, your self-care and peace will increase. Take time today to give gratitude for this magnificent machine we call our body. Consider five aspects of your body you are currently grateful for in this present moment.