With a New Year fast approaching many people are taking stock of their lives and preformulating resolutions to improve their health and happiness. While eliminating a sugary Starbucks beverage from your daily routine or participating in a Zumba class once a week are positive steps towards better health, many are missing out on a key game-changer: Gratitude! (Not just for Thanksgiving. See also: Stuffing, but I’m getting side-tracked...)
Gratitude is a two for one deal: When practiced, gratitude improves BOTH health and happiness. This is no snake oil--Scientists concur that gratitude reaps huge benefits. A 2012 study found that grateful people complain of fewer aches and pains so, no gratitude, more pain! Additional research uncovered a high correlation between physical health and gratitude. Grateful people were more likely to exercise, sleep better and attend routine check-ups with their doctor. Gratitude even has immune-strengthening superpowers, so next time you feel a cold coming on, consider washing down your Vitamin C with an extra dose of thanks for your blessings.
With a rising national suicide trend, mental health challenges are gaining appropriate recognition as a serious threat to our communities. Gratitude can be part of the solution, by providing an antidote to acute emotional distress. In a 2006 study, higher levels of gratitude accompanied lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among Vietnam War veterans. Gratitude produces resilience that builds mental muscle. It reduces anxiety, depression and even aggression because when we’re grateful we’re also less likely to be envious, discontented, or worried. We recognize that life (although not perfect) is still worthwhile and fulfilling. Consider the celebrated biography, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. In it, two sisters are sent to a concentration camp for sheltering Jews and end up giving “thanks for the fleas,” because it meant they were able to hold worship services in their barracks, as the guards refused to enter their flea-infested quarters.
Unsurprisingly then gratitude is associated with greater well-being. It’s hard to feel frustrated or upset once you acknowledge all the good in your life. Try it! Next time you find yourself in the midst of a pity party (hosted by yourself), stop the tiny violin music and write a list of things you are grateful for (If you want to make it “official,” you can dedicate an entire journal/notebook to your gratitude documentation). When I first did this exercise, I started with more generic answers (indoor plumbing, a roof over my head, etc.) but as the list continued, my responses grew more personal (achieving the perfect butter-to-toast ratio, sleeping on the “cold” side of the pillow) and I realized there were many things I was grateful for that I had never considered before as “real” blessings, but I was nonetheless appreciative of .
Spring is still a couple of months away, but gratitude may help it feel a little warmer with a brighter outlook this winter. As you sit around the table with friends, family or strangers this Thanksgiving, include your hospice care team as part of your gratitude reflection. Acknowledge the hard work, commitment and sacrifices made to achieve exceptional patient comfort in your organization this year. Consider sending a text or two expressing your appreciation to your co-workers, because like a large meal, gratitude is best when shared.
Morin, Amy. “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 27 Nov. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#735459b318c