Board Certified Family Medicine & Integrative Holistic Medicine

Experience Is Created By Thought: The Magic Of Gratitude and Mindfulness

October 8, 2017

Your thoughts have the power to shape your reality. Your thoughts have the power to engender happiness and make the movie of your life magic.  As we discovered in part 1 of this series, you can synthesize your own happiness from within, with a simple thought experiment that takes just a few seconds. Through the power of thought, you can create neurotransmitters such as serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin, and GABA that engenders profound peace and joy through the relaxation response. What are simple practical steps we can take to create our own reality? A reality filled with gratitude, happiness and peace.

When you first get out of bed in the morning, perform this gratitude exercise. Think of three things for which you are grateful. As an example, these three things could be as simple as feeling grateful you have eyes to see the world, a job that helps pay the bills, and a companion by your side. Indeed, the possibilities of things to feel grateful for are endless. Furthermore, the health benefits of practicing the attitude of gratitude are numerous.

When we practice gratitude we are consciously rewiring our brains to see the good in our life and in the world. This is a choice. In every moment of our lives we have the ability to choose our attitudes. As Einstein famously said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  When we practice gratitude we are choosing to see the miracle of life and this helps engender health. Another famous affirmation that comes from the Course In Miracles that highlights this concept is the following, “Every decision I make is a choice between a grievance and a miracle, I choose the miracle”. How did you wake up this morning and live your day? Did you see everything as a grievance and spent the entire day complaining? Or did you see everything as a miracle? The best example of this concept is manifest in a small child who expresses wonder, joy and is awe inspired with everything they encounter in this beautiful world. This childlike wonder that engenders a plethora of health benefits is fostered through the practice of mindfulness. Furthermore, one can practice Loving-Kindness Meditation as discussed in detail in my last blog, Meditation as Medication.

We have modern research showing the benefits of mindfulness and choosing a healthy attitude. We also have ancient stories that highlights how our thinking colors our reality. Once upon a time, an enlightened farmer was working in the field. He lived in a very peaceful serene village and he wanted to keep it that way. He reflected on his life and realized that he had shaped his reality through his attitude and positive thinking. At that moment, a traveler from a nearby village came walking down the long dirt path. The traveler had intentions to move to the farmer’s village. Once he got close enough he asked the farmer, “How are the people in this village?”

The farmer replied, “How were the people from where you lived before?”

The traveler said, “Oh, they were generous, grateful, kind, loving people. I will miss them dearly.”

The farmer said, “That is exactly how the people are here. You are welcome here anytime.”

Shortly thereafter, another traveler came down the dirt path who was from the same village as the previous traveler, and asked the farmer, “How are the people in this village?”

The farmer replied, “How were the people from where you lived before?”

The second traveler said, “Oh, they were mean, rude, disrespectful, stingy, and so ungrateful. I am happy to leave them.”

The farmer said, “That is exactly how the people are in this village. You will not like it here.”

The two travelers were given different answers to the same question. Their individual subjective experiences colored their opinions. This story illustrates the power of our minds to create reality. Indeed, we can transform our lives if we cultivate positive thoughts and feelings of gratitude. Even the simple things in life can generate joy and happiness, as scientific research has shown. Modern psychology has proven that happiness that comes from within is profound and enduring. Happiness that comes from outside ourselves is fleeting. A classic example is the study in 1978 from Northwestern University and University of Massachusetts on happiness of lottery winners versus paraplegics one year later. We know both lottery winners and paraplegics have the same baseline level of happiness one year later. After winning the lottery, the novelty rapidly wore off. The new things that the winners accumulated brought a transient happiness. After a short period, the thrill of extra money wore off, and they became accustomed to their new life. This effect is known as hedonic adaptation. In fact, the researchers discovered that the paraplegics had more pleasure from everyday activities such as talking with friends, watching TV, eating, and laughing at a joke. There is another classic study that shows the power of positive psychology. For The Nun Study, psychologists analyzed the biographical essays of 180 Nuns from when they first entered the convent at the average age of 22. They also analyzed journal entries from throughout the 67 nuns’ lives and found that the nuns that were more optimistic and happier lived up to 10 years longer. The cheerful sisters had a significantly higher likelihood to live into their 80s and 90s then the less cheerful sisters.

We know from the memoirs of Louis Zamperini and Dr. Viktor Frankl that positive thinking enhances your chances of survival under extreme stress as a prisoner of war. Manufacturing happiness from within also brings health, longevity, and pleasure from mundane everyday activities. Modern day research is giving us evidence through long term studies what ancient sages have known for millennia. Any situation, no matter how extreme, can be transformed with the power of thinking.

It is through the power of positive thinking one can transform reality. Positive affirmations are a proven way to rewire your brain and release healing hormones in your body. When we state a positive affirmation silently or out loud we create a special energy that helps break destructive stagnant patterns. Here are examples of positive affirmations from Unity Worldwide:

“I hold the keys to my own prosperity.”

“My mind and body are whole, well and strong.”

One can practice gratitude and positive affirmations to help engender health. But the most powerful practice is that of continual mindfulness of the present moment. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, mindfulness is defined as, “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis”. Scientist have discovered that the default mode of the human brain is that of mind wandering. When the mind is wandering, it leads to unrest and unhappiness. Harvard researchers have discovered that one of the most important predictors of happiness is present moment awareness. For example, if your doing a mundane task such as washing the dishes and are fully mindful, you will experience greater happiness.This is also known as informal meditation practice.

Informal meditation practice is living every moment of one’s life with awareness of the present moment. This differs from the formal practice of “sit down” meditation. This practice is done while walking, talking, eating, or doing any of the myriad of things in daily life. It involves being aware of the present moment and accepting it in a nonjudgmental way. One of the best ways to practice being present in the “now” is by doing breathing meditation. The practitioner knows of his or her thoughts, emotions, situations as they arise in one’s daily life, and the practitioner anchors themselves in the present moment with deep mindful breathing. Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment in a nonjudgmental way and giving 100% of your attention to the “now” through the practice of conscious deep breathing. A way to get deeper into the mindfulness practice is by adding words of power to your conscious breathing. Continue with breath awareness. As you breathe in repeat, “I have arrived,” in your mind, and as you breathe out repeat, “I am home,” in your mind. This will naturally bring you back to the present moment. As you breathe in, stay mindful of your breath and know, “I have arrived,” and breathe out and know “I am home.” The full mantra is breathing in (I have arrived), breathing out (I am home), breathing in (in the here), breathing out (in the now). I learned this beautiful mantra from the Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh.  It immediately brings the mind back to the body and engenders present moment awareness. This meditation brings you back to your true home address, which is always the Here and the Now.

In conclusion today, let us focus our attention on the present moment. Practice continual mindfulness on a moment-to-moment basis. Create a daily practice of gratitude. This practice will spontaneously engender a feeling a well-being and a greater sense of happiness. With this practice we get off the hedonic treadmill which is associated with dissatisfaction, unrest, and unhappiness. As Seneca said, “It is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more.” Indeed, the individual with the restless monkey mind is poor. The individual practicing daily mindfulness and gratitude has inner riches and is manifesting his or her own reality through the power of thought! In the next installment we shall explore the fifth principle: Stardust In Everyone. There are Five Ancient Universal Principles that children live every day and allow every day to be filled with peace, joy, and contentment. I have created a mnemonic device that will help you remember the 5 Principles for inner and outer transformation: L.O.V.E.S. The Answer. These principles have been around for thousands of years and can be practiced with any religion.


Meditation Medication: A Treatment For Natural Disasters & Personal Suffering.

September 13, 2017

I have never witnessed so many cataclysmic events during my lifetime. The number of natural disasters affecting the world is unprecedented. There is an effective all natural treatment for stress, grief, and suffering  that I will share at the end of this blog. Our companion animals can show us the way.

I live in the great Northwest and we are having epic forest fires creating hazardous air quality. There is the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Irma in the Caribbean, F...

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The Miracle Of Making Every Day a Vacation part 2 of 5

September 3, 2017

The first principle: Live Your Truth because knowledge is not enough, was explored in the last blog.

In this blog we shall explore the second principle:

One Presence and One Power Unites Us All

Albert Einstein’s lifework was trying to discover the Unified Field Theory. The Butterfly Effect is a dramatic example. A butterfly flaps its wings in Miami, Florida and there is a hurricane in the Bahamas two weeks later. In the physical domain of existence we are all familiar with how interconnected...

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The Miracle Of Making Every Day a Vacation part 1 of 5

August 16, 2017

Is it possible to live every day with the thrill and joy of vacation? The answer to this question is a resounding yes! In this series, we shall explore the worldviews of Gandhi and Einstein which will point us in the right direction. The secret is rediscovering our childlike nature and knowing vacation is a state of mind.

There is a famous story of a Western journalist asking Mahatma Gandhi,

You've been working 15-hour days for 50 years. Don't you need a vacation?”

Gandhi replied, “I am...

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Synchronicity in Jamaica

December 24, 2016

What happened today is unfathomable. Luckily, my daughter captured a video. At the end of this blog, you shall see the footage that confirms this uncanny synchronicity!  A conspiracy of countless improbable events transpired, with a climactic ending in Jamaica.

The chain of events began almost twenty-two years ago. In fact, during the fall of 1995, I was a pre-medical student in college at F.I.U. To release stress from studying, I was singing and dancing to reggae in the dance halls of Miami. ...

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The Magic Of Transformation

December 21, 2016

“Quit your job now, pursue your dreams, and live a long and happy life. Otherwise, prepare for a premature death because stress is killing you, Hombre!” the pot-bellied Cuban doctor reprimanded Pedro. 

Pedro is a rotund man, with a big red nose scarred by rosacea, and a gray mustache. He is an overworked, underpaid, frazzled truck driver. When his doctor gave him the diagnoses of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, he was in despair. Cheap rum became his medicine.

“I am killing mys...

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My Mysterious Diagnosis

September 19, 2016

On Friday, August 19, 2016, I developed an insidious left flank pain. My mind thought the worst: it must be a malignant solid tumor compressing my internal organs. With such a grave predicament, my time is limited. I kept this information quiet since we were going on an epic journey. The next week, my family and I vacationed in Yosemite National Park. My mysterious pain that had a potential ominous diagnosis would not impact a once in a lifetime trip to one of America's Great National Parks. ...

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Diagnosis and Treatment Of Low Testosterone

September 10, 2016

Summary on Diagnosis and Natural Treatment of Low Testosterone in Men

What is Low Testosterone?

It is estimated that millions of American men have hypogonadism, which is defined as low serum testosterone with clinical symptoms of androgen deficiency. (1)  There is a relative decline in testosterone with increasing chronological age, and there are other health and lifestyle factors that contribute to a decline in this vital hormone. (2,3) The lowering of testosterone is a complex and multifacto...

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Work Stress, Your Dream Job, and Dr OG's Story

September 2, 2016

In modern society, work-related stress places a tremendous burden on an individual's mental, emotional, and physical health. This work-related exhaustion causes premature aging. We have known for years that on Monday mornings, there is a greater incidence of heart attacks than on any other day of the week. Why? The dread of returning to work after a relaxing weekend, to a stressful job, causes an increased release of cortisol and adrenaline. This upsurge of stress hormones causes higher blood...

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Olympic Stir Fry, Dr. OG's Rap!

July 2, 2016

It is all smiles

during the Olympic Trials.

Minds are open,

one bad omen,

hearts are broken,

dreams are stolen.

After many miles of training,

precious time is waning.

The best athletes are here,

no more complaining.

Historic Hayward field offers the thrills and the chills. Ironic, how some athletes barely make enough to pay the bills,

while others make millions.

I’ve digressed.

Can you guess?

What is the secret to their running success?  

More importantly, what is the secret to avoid sudden death?...

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About Me

Orestes Gutierrez, D.O. Board Certified in Family Medicine and Integrative Holistic Medicine. Author and All American Masters Runner.

Copyright  2015 Gutierrez Holistic Family Medicine, LLC - All Rights Reserved