The holidays can be packed with joy and love... but they can also be an opportunity for increased levels of stress. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are navigating fear, mandates, and constantly-changing social rules on top of the usual holiday stress. Thankfully, there is a simple practice that can help in counteracting symptoms of stress.
Studies have shown that gratitude practices help reduce stress and depressive symptoms. Another study found that gratitude helped decrease heart rate and shifted brain function to improve emotional wellbeing. At Virgin Pulse, we encourage members to pause, reflect, and practice gratitude to alleviate stress and cultivate joy into the new year.
The whole-person approach that VP Live coaches and guides take allows us to help members experience whole health and wellbeing. We aren’t restricted in only speaking to physical health habits. We can dive into the deeper topics that enrich and empower our members to cultivate joy and alleviate stress one step at a time. This isn’t to say that gratitude can’t also improve our members’ physical health and wellbeing.
While stress increases the inflammatory response, gratitude has been shown to reduce inflammatory responses in the body. This means gratitude can reduce the risk of physical disease and disorders associated with inflammation such as cardiovascular disease. When members can take some time to focus on the things they are grateful for, they can reverse the effects of stress at both the psychological and physiological level.
But what exactly is “gratitude?” And how does one “practice gratitude?” Let’s break it down.
The definition of gratitude
According to clinical definitions, “gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; it is a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation.” In coaching sessions, members can take time to verbalize what is currently valuable in their lives and express appreciation for even the simple things they may usually take for granted. Outside of this important opportunity to speak their truth aloud, there are practices that coaches can help members establish to consistently gain the benefits of gratitude.
The practice of gratitude
Practicing gratitude is a very subjective and unique experience for each member. At Virgin Pulse, we know that each member has their own values and their own definition of an achievable habit. By asking members what works for them, coaches and guides can ensure members can create gratitude practices that work for them. Some practices that are more common, however, are:
Keeping a gratitude journal: Members can keep a journal to record the things they are grateful for. Maybe this is on the member’s phone, a Word document, a physical journal, or a voice recording. Some members may even want a more visual representation and draw images of what they are grateful for. As long as we meet the members where they are, they can create a record-keeping system to intentionally practice gratitude in a way that can be reflected upon in the future as well.
Loving Kindness Meditation: Coaches may guide members through a Loving Kindness Meditation by inviting members to close their eyes and envision someone they love. Members can then imagine speaking to this person, “May you be safe. May you live with ease. May you feel loved.” Often, members report feeling joy and ease as they send these kind wishes to someone they care for. This is a gratitude practice members can then integrate into their lives outside of their coaching sessions.
Creating a note of gratitude: Just like members may feel joy mentally sending kind wishes to loved ones, members may experience a similar joy creating a note of gratitude to loved ones. Members may compose a note or record a spoken note. This could be a practice that is kept private, or members may choose to share these notes if it would better serve their intentions.
Cultivating joy in the new year
When we talk about cultivating joy at VP Live, we are talking about cultivating joy for the mind, body, and spirit. We believe in the importance of tending to all the different facets of our wellbeing for whole-person health. Gratitude practices like the ones above can be a simple-yet-powerful way to create both psychological and physiological changes to support our whole-person health.
Though gratitude practice can be simple as a concept, it can always be challenging to build any new habits. This is where a VP Live coach or guide can really come in handy. Our coaches and guides are here to listen deeply to members, ask questions that can reveal deeper truths or barriers, and empower members to take small steps towards their goals. With VP Live by their side, our members can and will cultivate joy in small and big ways into the new year and beyond.
About the Author
Cynthia Kim-Eumie Shockley, MA, NBC-HWC
Cynthia Kim-Eumie Shockley is a Registered Yoga Teacher, Mindfulness Facilitator, and National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach with an M.A. in Integrative Health & Wellbeing Coaching from the University of Minnesota and a B.S. in Psychobiology from UCLA. She has fine-tuned her innate love of listening and supporting others with 9 years of professional experience in health & wellness. She partners with members to celebrate their wins, challenge their unhelpful belief systems, and set goals that align with their vision for wellbeing.
Learn more about VP Live Services
VP Live Coaching features a whole-person approach that blends lifestyle optimization with specialization in an industry-leading 22 conditions, providing total population health management. This approach helps healthy members stay healthy, improves clinical outcomes, and reduces costs associated with chronic conditions. Members access coaching resources directly through their app and once paired with a coach. They identify their goals for a thriving life and work together to progress toward their vision and achieve their targeted outcomes. To learn more about VP Live, reach out to your Client Success team.
Also part of the VP Live product suite, Next-Steps Consult helps members get the most out of their wellbeing program. It is a concierge-style conversation between member and health guide, focused on determining a member’s first or next step in their wellbeing journey and personalized guidance of all that Virgin Pulse and employer benefits have to offer. Our health guides uncover the best route for a member based on their health status, motivators, and obstacles, with deep knowledge of client programs and resources.