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The down & dirty on women's wellness
The Glorious Art & Medical Value of Giving Thanks
The Glorious Art & Medical Value of Giving Thanks
November 1, 2019
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for reading my words! Thank you for giving me feedback! Thank you for visiting my website! Thank you for following me on Facebook! Thank you for engaging with my posts! Thank you for watching my Live Events and InstaStories! Thank you for referring your friends! Thank you for loving your care and telling me when it doesn’t fulfill your expectations! Thank you for the privilege of partnering with you in your care! Thank you for acknowledging how deeply I care about the quality of your care! Thank you for thinking outside the box and appreciating the value of our independent clinic! Thank you for being you!
It is Thanksgiving month, which means I am thinking a lot about gratitude. I think about gratitude extremely frequently as it is, because I am so deeply grateful for all the things, people, and opportunities I have now and have had in my life. I wake each day in a state of gratitude, reflecting on the things I GET TO DO each day. Before I fall asleep each day, I spend time thinking about the moments of the day that fill me with gratitude. As I take inventory of my goals and my desired achievements for the coming day, week, month, year, I always include in that inventory the good that surrounds me, what I am most grateful for and what I would like to cultivate. When I am consistent and dedicated to my practice of gratitude, I am a happier person. When I am consistent and dedicated to my practice of gratitude, I like my life a lot more. When I am consistent and dedicated to my practice of gratitude, I physically feel better. When it wavers, my physical and emotional health is invariably affected.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that I particularly love because it is not rife with expectation or potential for disappointment. Instead, an entire day of the month, the year, our lives is dedicated to giving thanks for what we have or what is to come. We eat good food. We surround ourselves with the people we love. We feel full from our bellies to our hearts. And then we eat turkey sandwiches for days and we slowly forget about the act of giving thanks until the following year when we again pull out our fall decorations: colored leaves, pumpkin spice and gratitude.
While I am cognizant of the role and benefit of gratitude in my own personal and professional life, I am also aware of the benefits of grateful expressions in all facets of all of our lives. Research consistently supports it. In research studies, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. Emotional well-being has a direct and linear effect on our physical well-being. Engaging in activities that enhance our emotional state will result in improved healthcare outcomes, including improved responses to treatments (even surgical treatments). Expressions of gratitude are not wholly dependent on the state of our current life, and I am not suggesting that there is any way that anyone, confronted with adversity, can be grateful all the time. We can be grateful for what is happening in the present moment, or, if that’s bad, we can be grateful for things that have happened in the past, or—if that’s also bad—we can have gratitude for things that are possible or likely to happen in the future. Cultivating gratitude will improve your health. Here are a few ways to tap into feelings of gratitude in your own life:
1. Document the good stuff! We all have daily hassles. We all have gripes, aggravations, irritations. We get flat tires. We open the mail to find an unexpected bill. We lose more hair than we wanted to. We encounter a rude cashier at the grocery store. We get stuck in traffic. Bad things are going to happen. When we fastidiously document them, we integrate them more into our general emotional state. When we share the transgressions we experience and the hardships we encounter on social media, we saturate ourselves in negativity, and we saturate our friend networks with the same. Research has demonstrated that the simple act of WRITING DOWN the good stuff that happens to us improves our general outlook on life and our optimism about what is to come. Make a regular practice of documenting the good things that happen rather than the bad. If you are updating your status or your feed, dedicate yourself to making note of something positive that has happened in your life, from having a hot cup of coffee in the morning to winning a million dollars in the lottery. The relative size of the good thing isn’t what matters. It’s the active acknowledgment that counts.
2. Reflect on the past! Think of someone in your life who has been kind to you (again, it doesn’t matter HOW kind—they can have assisted you with your groceries or paid for your college—the effect is the same) who you feel has never been properly thanked. Write a letter of gratitude to that person and deliver it by hand. The improvements that researchers have seen in measurements of general happiness for participants in this activity are tremendous and boost general outlook in a way that is objectively measurable for a full month following participation. Make a habit of sending just one gratitude letter a month. Occasionally, send that letter to yourself!
3. Think about a relationship that challenges you. And then think about the things you like and appreciate about the person with whom you share that relationship. And THEN tell that person what you appreciate about them. Expressing your gratitude for and about another person improves your perspective of that person and enhances the relationship in ways that make it easier to address problems as they arise.
4. Set aside time to intentionally meditate on gratitude. We are all too busy. We are all too rushed. We flit from one activity or demand to another activity or demand with little time to pause between. We juggle jobs, children, pets, households, errands, friendships, relationships, other commitments. We wake up and get going. We fall asleep with our phones in our hands, catching up on email or updating our monthly Subscribe and Save. Set aside 5 minutes each day to spend time intentionally meditating on gratitude. Repeat the word “gratitude” or “grateful” or “thanks” or “blessing” to yourself and allow yourself to feel the feeling of something great happening.
5. Remember that you are going to die! This seems both morbid and like it would be unlikely to cultivate gratitude. This seems like it’s more depressing than anything. BUT! Regularly remembering that we do not have an infinite number of days left to live can help us look to the future in ways that maximize our positive experiences. If we stay acutely aware of our mortality, research demonstrates that we are more likely to engage actively in the days of life that we have and find ways to both appreciate and enhance our experiences.
If you have another method of consistently cultivating and promoting gratitude in your own life, I would love to hear about it. I would love to read about it on your social media feeds. I would love for you to come share it with my staff in clinic. I would love to share it with everyone else who may benefit from implementing your personal practice. I am grateful for you and all the ways you add to my life!