In a recent blog post, BLCC co-founder Stephanie Nelb highlighted six of the benefits of gratitude. When you cultivate a practice of gratitude it can enhance your happiness, improve your sleep, boost positivity, support physical and mental health, better relationships, and help with stress.
In this post, I will explain the various layers behind one gratitude habit that is near and dear to my heart, cultivating gratitude for the food and water that nourishes us.
A Practice of Gratitude
Cultivating a practice of gratitude was established thousands of years ago. What was once commonplace in many religious traditions is now supported by scientific study. Research is showing that cultivating a feeling of gratitude improves cardiovascular health, balances the nervous system, lowers blood pressure, improves sleep, and reduces inflammation (Fitz et al, 2019; Heart Math Institute, 2009)
The tradition of saying “grace” before eating is taking on a new meaning. It’s not just something to do because we “should”, or because our parents told us to as children. We weren’t taught the “why” behind the action, and as such, it has become a low priority on our list of to-do’s.
Slowing down and taking a pause before that first bite has positive effects on the mealtime experience, the brain, and food itself.
The Lost Art of Mindful Eating
In our fast paced society, many of us have lost touch with presence. To-do lists fill our minds and mindfulness often falls to the wayside. If we carry this mindset into eating, we begin taking our food for granted, unable to taste it or feel the effects it has on our body. It may go against our daily structure to take a pause before that first bite, but doing so allows space for greater mindfulness.
What is it like to slow down and use all of the senses while eating?
Take a piece of food, maybe a piece of chocolate or fruit, and listen to the sound it makes when it is picked up.
Now, really look at it, all of the shadows and ridges. Feel the texture in your hand and in your mouth. Take in the smell and the taste. Resist the urge to eat mechanically, you are eating and nourishing the body with each bite.
While eating, ponder:
- How does it taste?
- What temperature is it?
- What colors do you see?
- What does it smell like?
- What does it feel like?
This engages a bit more mindfulness and embodiment that allows us to truly be present while eating.
This level of mindfulness is a journey and does not need to be done all the time. However, a regular, intentional practice with this mindset is a game changer. The best part is, the more it is practiced, the easier it gets. Over time the brain begins to form new neural connections and rewire so that eating peacefully and mindfully becomes a habit.
Combining Mindfulness & A Practice of Gratitude
How do we cultivate gratitude for our food?
Pause, take a breath, and really observe the food. Bring the bowl, cup, or plate to your heart, and thank it.
Speak to it and thank it for nourishing your body. Thank those who have prepared it. Thank the farmers, producers, drivers, and store from which it came. Thank the earth for providing it. And thank Source for all. Then slowly, mindfully, and intentionally nourish the body.
Try this and feel the difference between when you eat with gratitude and when you don’t.
Then, observe the effects for hours or days to come. How are your hunger, mood, emotions, energy, and/or happiness affected?
Effects of Gratitude on Body-Brain
As with all gratitude practices, a pause to cultivate gratitude before eating creates changes in the brain and body.
When in an anxious state, the body is utilizing energy to prepare for fight or flight, which alters healthy digestion. For some it will shut digestion down completely, and for others it will rapidly increase digestion so nutrients are not properly absorbed (American Psychological Association, 2018); just think of when animals and humans lose some control of their bowels when in fear!
A practice of gratitude allows the nervous system to regulate (Heart Math Institute, 2009) and mitigate the effects of stress on digestion.
A calm, balanced system at meal time allows digestive processes to really nourish the body instead of causing digestion to be an added layer of stress.
Life Consumes Life
Cleve Backster, the inventor of the lie detector test, placed electrodes on his house plant to measure if it had an emotional response similar to humans.
To his surprise, it did! He wrote that before he spoke or acted upon his thought, there was “a dramatic change in the tracing pattern… by the mere thought of the harm he intended to inflict upon the plant” (Backster, 1968, p. 330). The phenomenon of plants responding to the field around them is now known as the Backster Effect.
What is in plants that could attest to this phenomena?
Dr. Emoto, a Japanese scientist who wrote the New York Times bestseller The Hidden Messages in Water, discovered that water itself responds to human thoughts, emotions, intention, and energy.
The overview of his book states,“Using high-speed photography, Dr. Masaru Emoto discovered that crystals formed in frozen water reveal changes when specific, concentrated thoughts are directed toward them. He found that water from clear springs and water that has been exposed to loving words shows brilliant, complex, and colorful snowflake patterns. In contrast, polluted water, or water exposed to negative thoughts, forms incomplete, asymmetrical patterns with dull colors. The implications of this research create a new awareness of how we can positively impact the earth and our personal health.” (Emoto, 2004)
Between these findings, it seems to be that water in plants receives human energy to such a degree that plant life has a physical response.
Furthermore, if human energy affects the water in plants, is it possible that the water in our bodies is affected in a similar way?
The human body is more than 60% water, and other organisms are up to 90% (United States Geological Survey, n.d.). Just as Backster discovered the plant could “read his mind”, is it possible that we can perceive, even at a subtle level, others’ states?
Does Emoto’s discovery of water carrying and storing energetic information play a role in intuition?
“Water records information, and while circulating throughout the earth distributes information. This water sent from the universe is full of the information of life…”
To go another level deeper… the earth itself is about 73% water. If water is influenced by human thought and emotion, and the earth is mostly water… what are we contributing to the whole?
What are we projecting into the water on this earth? What is our energy when we interact with others? How is the content of our mindset, thoughts, and emotions when we interact with food?
Cultivating a sense of gratitude to all things, including the food we eat, influences the molecular structure of water molecules within.
With heart-centered gratitude, the structure becomes symmetrical, providing a different effect on the body than if we were to eat in a state of stress, hurry, or even guilt about what we are eating.
Imagine if we teach ourselves and our children how to practice true, heart-felt gratitude for everything that crosses our path.
The fast food and fast paced, wasteful tendencies of our current generation may be mitigated with a few simple “Thank Yous”!
Please note: this post is a combination of spirit and science. It is not a scientific article. The resources below have informed a philosophy and practice of mine. Living my Best Life means exploring and being curious about different fields, modalities, and studies to find what does and does not resonate with me, and I encourage you to do the same!
American Psychological Association. (2018). Stress effects on the body. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body
Backster, C. (1968). Evidence of a primary perception in plant life. International Journal of Parapsychology, 10(4), 328-411
Emoto, M. (2004). The hidden messages in water. Beyond Words Pub.
Fitz, M.M., Armenta, C.N., Walsh, L.C., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2019, March). Gratitude facilitates healthy eating behavior in adolescents and young adults. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 81, 4-14.
Heart Math Institute. (n.d.). An appreciative heart is good medicine. https://www.heartmath.org/articles-of-the-heart/personal-development/an-appreciative-heart-is-good-medicine/
United States Geological Survey. (n.d.). The water in you: water and the human body. https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/water-you-water-and-human-body?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects
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Last modified: November 1, 2021