- 1. Fear and Gratitude Cannot Co-Exist in the Same Moment
If you’ve bumped up against challenges while trying to conceive, it is scary. Your mind starts to go down Google and rabbit holes that can induce a physiological stress response. Having a gratitude practice, simply writing down three things you are grateful for, instantly lifts you out of the fear and creates a different response in the body. It’s a way to settle your nervous system and regulate your thoughts so that your brain sends your body the message, “I have a lot to be grateful for” instead of “I have a lot to fear” which are two very different thoughts creating two very different responses in the body.
2. Gratitude Helps Shift Beliefs
Fertility affirmations can help (there are 50 beautiful ones in the WeNatal Journal) but if you keep saying, “My baby is on the way to me, I trust in my baby’s timing” and you don’t truly believe it, you’re not reaching the full potency of the affirmation.
Researcher of epigenetics and neuroscience, Dr. Joe Dispenza agrees, “We never accept, believe or surrender to thoughts that are not equal to our emotional state.”
Gratitude acts like a vitamin for your emotional state and your beliefs. By practicing gratitude regularly, you are infusing your existing beliefs with positive reinforcements and proof. You are programming your brain to more fully believe that good things are possible for you because they already have happened. You have much to be grateful for in your life already, so it gets easier to expect more.
3. Beliefs Affect Hormones and Cellular Responses
Dr. Alia Crum from Stanford Mind and Body Lab has spent her entire career studying how beliefs affect our physiology. She is an expert on placebo effects and has conducted studies on how simply believing that a food is either decadent or diet can affect the number of hunger hormones (ghrelin) released by 3X, even when it’s the exact same food!
Simply put, our bodies are listening and reacting to our thoughts. Our thoughts influence the way our cells respond.
Dr. Crum concludes that positive beliefs have positive responses, and negative beliefs have negative responses.
Don’t believe it? Think about the “fight or flight” response that every animal has including humans. When you have a thought that you are under attack, your brain sends a signal to your cells to release the stress hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and your body responds with sweaty palms, a faster heartbeat, pumping more blood to your heart and lungs, tensing of muscles, shortness of breath and the urge to run or fight.
After this initial adrenaline surge, the body ramps up cortisol levels. The body stays revved up or on high alert until the threat passes.
It doesn’t have to be a bear chasing you in the woods. Any thought can trigger a stress response and many people in today’s fast paced world are unable to find a way out of the body’s stress response which keeps the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands working overtime.
In this state, you are using an enormous amount of your body’s energy for threat, either real or imagined, and it causes your immune system to lower, leaving little energy for growth and healing.
Gratitude is an antidote. We all have the racing thoughts. We are human after all. When trying to conceive, our lives are often peppered with high stress situations. The negative pregnancy test after you were sure that this time it worked, the loss of a very wanted pregnancy, the fertility visits, the conversations with family about “when are you guys going to have a baby?” It takes a superhuman to not have a stress response during these times.
Practicing gratitude regularly can start to retrain your brain to then calm your body. Which creates a different response within the body, a more peaceful healing response.
Dr. Crum concludes, “Our mindsets recruit healing properties in the body.” Gratitude is a free, simple and accessible tool that can help guide our mindsets to a place of healing.
4. Gratitude Releases Feel Good Hormones
Glenn Fox, Ph.D and head of program design at the USC Performance Science Institute has done extensive research on gratitude and it’s impacts on performance and the body. “When you experience the feeling of gratitude, your brain releases a combination of dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. This is all very similar to a runner’s high,” he told Runner’s World.
Oxytocin helps reduce stress, dopamine is responsible for the feeling of happiness and endorphins also boost happiness.
Research has shown that practicing gratitude consistently can help improve long term health. It can improve sleep, reduce blood pressure, lower levels of inflammation and heal from injuries faster. With those kinds of effects, it’s easy to see how a gratitude practice could help in any high stress situation including the conception journey.
5. What You Focus on Expands
Being grateful for what you already have in front of you is the surest way to keep growing the good in your life. When trying to conceive, the idea that something as simple as a gratitude practice can help put your body in a more relaxed and ready to receive state is so simple that it is often overlooked.
You can try all the foods, throw out all the toxins, take in the exact dosages of the nutrients recommended but if your mind and body is chronically stressed or laser focused on what’s lacking, an easy and powerful place to start is simply to look for the good that already exists and say, “Thank you!” in a regular way.