Our Parish Nurse, Ann Yeo (who was musing about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday), recently did a Google search on the subject of gratitude. That search explored the many benefits of practicing gratitude – benefits for our physical, mental and emotional, social, and spiritual health – and Ann decided to share some of that information with you.
Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. Believe it or not, the phenomenon of gratitude has been well-researched. The multitude of known benefits of practicing gratitude is quite startling, actually. Being grateful has the power to:
- Make us happier and more optimistic, reduce symptoms of depression, increase our resilience, and improve our self-esteem.
- Improve our sleep, motivate us to exercise more often, reduce pain, lower blood pressure, strengthen our immune system, reduce stress, and help us to live longer lives.
- Make us more understanding, more compassionate, more helpful, and kinder to others; and thereby improve our relationships with others.
- Improve our decision-making, increase our goal achievement, build our social capital, make us more creative, increase our productivity, and make us more effective leaders.
- Make us more humble and less self-centered.
- Reduce materialistic thinking, and strengthen the spiritual aspect of our lives.
So, how can we reap the many benefits of practicing gratitude? In other words, how can we cultivate gratitude, or refocus on what we have rather than on what we lack? Some suggestions include:
- Regularly write thank-you notes, or make telephone calls or personal visits if possible, or even thank someone mentally, for the kindnesses they did for you.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Count your blessings.
- If prayer is part of your spiritual practice, offer regular prayers of thanksgiving.
- If meditation is part of your spiritual practice, sometimes focus on that for which you are grateful.
Here are some final thoughts:
With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. (Even in the second year of a pandemic, there is goodness!) In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people to connect with something larger than themselves as individuals – whether with other people, with nature, or with a higher power.
Gratitude helps people to feel more positive emotions, to relish good experiences, to improve their health, to deal with adversity, and to build strong relationships. Gratitude is possible to cultivate, and it is worthwhile to do so.
Hear again the words from that familiar Thanksgiving hymn: “We sing now together our song of thanksgiving, rejoicing in goods which the ages have wrought, for Life that enfolds us, and helps and heals and holds us, and leads beyond the goals which our forebears once sought.” (Singing the Living Tradition, # 67)
-Ann Yeo, RN, MSN, Certified Holistic Nurse