Our Parish Nurse, Ann Yeo, has written previously about gratitude (usually near the Thanksgiving holiday). Thinking again on the subject, just recently, she realized (of course) that gratitude is not limited to a particular time of year. Last fall, she wrote about the results of a Google search which explored the possible benefits of practicing gratitude. Those benefits can impact our physical, mental and emotional, social, and spiritual health. In a grateful mood at this time, Ann decided to re-share 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, make telephone calls or personal visits if possible, or even thank someone mentally, for the kindness 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 3rd 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, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. Gratitude is possible to cultivate, and it is worthwhile to do so.
Regardless of the season, these words from a beloved hymn associated with the November holiday, ring true: “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