How Gratitude Can Improve Emotional Regulation

December 1, 2021
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Mental Health

Our emotional state can profoundly impact our food choices. The way we eat is not solely based upon our physical hunger but is even more largely influenced by the state of our mental health.

When we’re in a more negative place emotionally, it can feel harder to make healthy food choices. But when we’re in a more positive place, that can motivate us to choose more nutritious foods. This act of making healthier choices based on emotions is called emotional regulation.

One way to improve emotional regulation and get in a more positive place is by practicing gratitude. Doing this at home supports personal wellbeing. Encouraging gratitude practice in the workplace fosters a positive working environment. And a more positive environment means happier, more hard-working employees.

The concept of gratitude has recently gained increased attention, especially since the pandemic. Not only can practicing gratitude get us through tough days, but it can also motivate us to eat healthier.

What is Gratitude?

Gratitude is the concept of being thankful and appreciative of what we have. In the business of everyday life, it’s easy to lose sight of all the positive things around us. But once we start becoming aware of our blessings, that positivity can be channeled to improve health and well-being.

Here are 3 simple ways to start practicing gratitude today:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. Keep a daily journal of all the things you’re grateful for in life, such as family, friends, or your own unique gifts and talents. Setting a plan to journal at least 3 positive things each day is most helpful to keep the positive vibes going.
  2. Share gratitude with others. Every time a friend, family member, or colleague does something nice, it’s important to let them know how much you appreciate it. Expressing gratitude to others can strengthen our professional relationships, which improves wellbeing.
  3. Use visual reminders. Even with practicing gratitude daily, it’s easy to forget these good feelings as the day goes on. Placing visual reminders nearby, such as a list of the top things you’re grateful for or a motivational quote in the office, can maintain that positive headspace.

How Gratitude Can Motivate Us to Eat Better

One of the biggest barriers to eating well is our own mindset. There have been numerous studies on the relationship between our mood and our food choices, and so the two are directly linked.

The good news is that practicing gratitude, even for a few minutes, can improve our mood and reduce negative emotions that are getting in the way of eating healthy. 

In fact, there is recent research that shows specifically eating more vegetables and fruits leads to immediate improvements in mood and wellbeing. This improvement in mood can then lead to an increased future desire to eat vegetables and fruit. The more you crave and eat vegetables and fruit, the more the wonderful cycle continues!

3 ways practicing gratitude daily can help us eat better:

  1. It puts us in a more positive mindset. When we are feeling grateful, we will be more likely to want to eat nutritious foods that will keep those positive feelings going. When we’re feeling happy, we’ll probably think twice about eating junk food that will deplete our energy.
  2. Feeling grateful helps regulate emotions. It’s normal to turn to unhealthy food when in need of comfort, or to suppress an unpleasant emotion. Adopting a daily gratitude practice helps reduce unpleasant emotions such as anxiety, depression, sadness, guilt, or fear so that we’re better able to control urges to mindlessly eat.
  3. May improve our sleep. Those who practice gratitude daily report better sleep. This is very promising, as adequate sleep is essential for making healthy food choices, and a lack of sleep may increase cravings for junk food.

Practicing gratitude can have a profound effect on your employee’s health and well-being, which can bolster their productivity. You have the power to directly support your employees in their efforts to practice gratitude.

Whether your office is remote or in-person, you can start by offering a daily 5-minute silent practice. Have every employee write down what they’re grateful for.  It is the perfect time to start this now during the holiday season, which is an especially wonderful time to reflect on what we’re thankful for.

This simple 5-minute practice will help your employees remain in a positive headspace and will improve their motivation.

Jill Woodward is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and a Nutrition Education Specialist. She has a Master’s in nutrition and dietetics and has worked in a variety of settings including hospitals and outpatient clinics. Jill has also worked with fortune 500 companies across the US on developing a culture of health in their corporate environments. Jill enjoys seeing people achieve their chosen health and wellness goals. Her evidence based approach helps individuals reach their goals as part of their unique lifestyle to successfully sustain their healthy habits.