The holiday season is upon us and the hustle and bustle has begun. This time of year promotes a spirit of giving and gratitude, but this can be short-lived as the holidays fade into the past and we begin our New Year, especially if we over-spent, over-ate and over-extended ourselves.
Gratitude can be defined as a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation and is the essence of good mental, physical and spiritual wellness. Spiritual leaders have long promoted the benefit of being grateful even in the face of challenge. The physical and mental health communities have also begun to identify and promote the benefits for wellness of having an attitude of gratitude.
Indeed, those who “count their blessings” report greater satisfaction with their lives. There was a study where one group of adults was given the assignment to keep a daily gratitude diary and another group was asked to journal about their daily hassles. Those assigned to keep gratitude journals showed an increase in determination, attention, enthusiasm and energy compared to the other group. Those in the grateful group also engaged in more pro-health behaviors such as exercising and eating healthier foods when compared to those focused on negative events of the day.
Being grateful can result in being more kind and considerate and increasing one’s willingness to reach out to help others. An added benefit of gratitude is that it improves cardiovascular health as well as your immune system.
People with an attitude of gratitude and optimism recover quicker when facing physical challenges such as surgery or emotional challenges and change. Change, good or bad, can be very stressful, but having an attitude of gratitude reduces the impact of stress hormones on the mind, body and spirit.
There are many quotes that express perspectives on gratitude, and these are a few that have spoken to me:
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”(John F. Kennedy)
“‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” (Alice Walker)
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity… It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. (Melodie Beattie)
Gratitude is a skill that takes practice, and sometimes it takes a disaster, like the tornado that hit North Minneapolis a couple of years ago, to make you appreciate the things you have come to expect, like electricity and a roof over your head.
In order to develop a grateful heart, take a few minutes each day, as you go about your day, and think of what you are grateful for, such as waking up today, having food, having a job, being able to look for a job, seeing the stars at night, hearing a favorite song, your loved ones, being alive — and the list goes on.
What are you grateful for today? Readers are invited to post comments on what they are grateful for — see contact information below.
Deirdre Annice Golden, Ph.D., LP, is director of Behavioral Health for NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center Behavioral Health Clinic, 1313 Penn Ave. N. She welcomes reader responses to Deirdre.Golden@co.hennepin.mn.us, or call 612-543-2705.
Dear Dr. Golden:
I found your article on cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” to be insightful and informative. By being grateful for the things we have and expressing that gratitude to God and others we can help ensure our own physical, mental and spiritual health. After all, life is more than “just about us.” Thanks for sharing your knowledge and professional opinion on this important topic, especially during the Christmas season! Thank you!
Willie Dean, Ph.D.
KFAI Radio Station
Dr. Golden: Thank you for your informative article on the “attitude of gratitude!” Being grateful and focusing on what we have and not what we don’t have is good for our spirit, mind and body! Thanks for your article. -Dr. Willie Dean