Has your mood felt a bit lower lately? Or that, despite your best efforts and intentions, the New Year isn’t kicking off quite as well as you had hoped? Well, I’ve got news for you – you’re not the only one!
It turns out, we’re right around a date that’s known as “Blue Monday.”  According to Cliff Arnall, a former Cardiff University tutor, this milestone – typically marked on the last Monday of the month of January – represents “the least happy day of the year,” due to the intersection of a number of unfortunate circumstances:
- It’s still dark out. Although we’re moving further and further away from the shortest days of the year, our daylight hours haven’t yet extended to the point where most people can enjoy them after leaving the office at the end of the work day.
- Our holiday bills are coming due. Splurging on thoughtful Christmas presents may have seemed like a good idea when you were filled up with holiday spirit, but the end of January means credit card statements are rolling in, and the financial reckoning is upon us.
- Our New Year’s Resolutions are failing. Are you one of the 50% of people who made a resolution to change your life in 2015? Unfortunately, only a fraction of those who make resolutions will achieve their goals, and those that don’t begin falling off the wagon around this time.
So basically, we’re stuck inside, we’re further in debt than ever and we’re confronted with the reality that willpower alone isn’t enough to to create the lives we’ve always dreamed about. And if you ask me, that sounds like a recipe for disaster!
Beating “Blue Monday”
But before you let this realization sap your motivation and energy, I’m going to let you in on a little secret… There is a solution to the “Blue Monday” blues, and it’s easier than you might think. The solution lies in two little words:
That’s right. I’m suggesting that, instead of letting the frustrations of this time of year get you down, you take the time to be grateful for everything you do have. Be grateful for your health, and for the opportunity to make positive, meaningful changes to the way you feel. Be grateful for your home – even if you wish it was bigger – and for your job, even if you wish it paid more. And be grateful for the people in your life that support you in your beauty journey, even if you have to log on to this website to find them.
It might sound challenging or even unbelievable to say that gratitude alone can change the way you eat and live, but there’s a surprising amount of science to back up this claim.
The Science of Gratitude
Take, for example, a study conducted by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, titled, “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life.” In this experiment, Drs. Emmons and McCullough divided study participants into three groups and asked each group to write a few sentences on weekly guided topics for a period of ten weeks. 
The first group wrote about things that had occurred during the week that they were grateful for, while the second group was tasked with writing about the things that irritated or displeased them. The third group was asked to write about the events that had occurred in their lives, but were not given direction as to whether their reports should be positive or negative in nature.
It probably won’t shock you to hear that, at the end of the study, participants in the first group reported feeling more optimistic and better about their lives overall. But where things get really interesting is that the first group also reported exercising more and visiting the doctor less. It seems that practicing gratitude really can have a meaningful impact on our daily lives!
But Drs. Emmons and McCullough aren’t the only ones to notice this effect. Dr. Martin Seligman, another researcher whose work focuses on the subject of gratitude, has demonstrated similarly positive effects. In one of his studies on positive psychology, Dr. Seligman recruited 411 subjects in order to test the impact of different positive psychology interventions, compared to a control assignment involving writing about early memories. 
Again, those who practiced gratitude in this clinical setting experienced more positive outcomes than their peers. In this study in particular, participants who were tasked with writing a letter of gratitude to people they believed hadn’t ever been properly thanked for some past kindness exhibited immediate increases in happiness scores that were higher than any other experimental group and that lasted for an average of one month.
(For more on Dr. Seligman’s perspective on positive psychology, I’d highly recommend checking out his excellent TED Talk on the subject. It’s fascinating stuff!)
The Health Benefits of Gratitude
So what can gratitude do for you? Given the studies above and other research I’ve come across, it seems safe to say that we can enjoy all of the following benefits from adopting a more thankful mindset:
- Gratitude improves physical health. One of the outcomes of the study referenced above by Drs. Emmon and McCullough was the observation that people who practice gratitude tend to be healthier and visit the doctor less often. Interestingly, though, they aren’t the only ones to observe this effect. Another study of 1,000 Swiss adults published in a 2012 edition of Personality and Individual Differences affirms the correlation between dispositional gratitude and better physical health. Think better, feel better – it’s that simple!
- Gratitude removes toxic emotions. You can’t be beautiful when your heart is filled with anger, greed or envy. For true beauty, you must move beyond these toxic emotions – and gratitude provides the perfect pathway for this type of self-improvement. One of the things you’ll notice in The Beauty Detox Power is that nearly every dramatic weight loss case study involves letting go of negative emotions and patterns. By making time in your day to practice gratitude using the steps below, there’s no room left for the negative thoughts that interfere with your natural glow.
- Gratitude improves sleep. You all know how important I think sleep is. The truth is, they don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing! But beyond shifting your diet to healthy plant foods (which require less night-time processing energy) and turning your bedroom into an ideal sleeping environment, one of the best things you can do for your sleep is to practice gratitude. According to a study published in a 2011 edition of Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, taking just 15 minutes a day to write (not type!) out a few gratitude-filled thoughts can help ease anxiety and improve sleep quality. 
A Daily Gratitude Practice
Wherever you are in your life, and no matter what your goals, you can benefit from gratitude. It may be challenging, particularly if you have more stress or pain in your life at the moment, but it’s possible. This is also why, instead of asking you to feel grateful for everything – which may be challenging – I recommend you begin with a simple practice of expressing gratitude for one thing: your food.
Every day, you’re given the opportunity to live the healthy and beautiful life you deserve, simply by choosing to fill your body with delicious, nourishing foods – and that’s a huge gift. These foods – from my Glowing Green Smoothie to all the meals in the Recipes section of my site – truly have the power to transform your physical health, your mental well-being and both your inner and outer beauty. I can’t think of a better thing to be thankful for!
So, with that in mind, here’s what I want you to do:
- Say “thank you” before each meal. Your parents were on to something when they had you say grace before a meal! You don’t need to make things complicated with lengthy prayers or reflections, but do take a second to recognize the privilege it is to be able to eat well and fuel your body. Not everybody in the world is so fortunate! And it’s an amazing way to really become conscious of what you are putting in your body.
- Add gratitude to your food journal. If you keep a record of the meals you eat, I’d like you to add one extra sentence to the end of each day’s entry: “I am grateful for the choices I made today to nourish my body.” Even if your eating wasn’t 100% on track, give thanks for the fact that the food you’ve eaten today will get you through to tomorrow and give you the opportunity to try again.
- Keep a gratitude example in mind. Practicing gratitude is harder on some days than on others. Before you hit a rough patch, try to find an example of something you’re truly grateful for and keep it at the back of your mind. Call it forward when you feel your desire to remain thankful lagging, and see if it doesn’t refocus your attention that abundant, limitless feeling that accompanies true gratitude.
Saying “thank you” to your food might sound crazy, but trust me on this one. If you practice gratitude regularly towards the food you eat, you’ll find it almost effortless to maintain a reverent, joyful state of eating that leads to better decision-making and greater levels of satisfaction overall. Practicing gratitude is a simple step, but it’s one that has the potential to be truly transformative when it comes to how you eat — AND how you live.
What food decisions have you made recently that you’re thankful for? Share your successes – or the steps you plan to take to practice gratitude in the future – by leaving me a comment below. I always love to hear from you
With love and immense gratitude,
Research: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Monday_(date)  http://www.stybelpeabody.com/newsite/pdf/gratitude.pdf  http://www.ppc.sas.upenn.edu/articleseligman.pdf  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23139438  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1758-0854.2011.01049.x/abstract