Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Although it’s once a year, we should be giving thanks everyday. Why? In this post, I will share with you why being grateful can change your life. Also, I’ll give you four ways on how to be grateful right now.
The other day, I admitted this unidentified 81-year-old male into the ICU. The story that I got from the other healthcare professionals was that he was found at Costco down and unresponsive. He was brought to our emergency department and found to have a complete heart block from a heart attack. After some procedures including intubation and placement of a pacemaker, he came to the ICU. His wife died three years ago. He has no children. He has no other family. Apparently, his only friend is his doctor in another city.
I stood over the patient as he laid in the ICU bed, intubated, sedated, unresponsive, with all these wires connected to him. He was alone and had no one with him. I imagined if I was in that situation, who would be there for me. I felt sorry for the guy, and felt really grateful for those who I surround myself with.
There has been a lot of buzz in the past several years on the positive impact of gratitude on our lives. In this experiment (Emmons & McCollough 2003), people were divided into one of three groups: gratitude outlook, hassle, and neutral. Everyday, they would have to keep daily and weekly journals. The findings showed a robust positive affect that the gratitude outlook group had in comparison to the other two. So, they concluded that being conscious on blessings can reap benefits in emotional and interpersonal health.
Even for healthcare providers such as myself, this study has shown that being thankful is an effective approach to reducing depressive symptoms. There are numerous others that either reiterate or affirm the positive effects of giving thanks.
So how can we be more thankful?
Here are four options that are effective:
- Journaling. I love journaling. An effective way of being grateful is by writing it down! It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can even write simple statements such as “I am grateful for…” and the benefits will still take into effect.
- Making a list. Here’s an exercise that will surely pick you up when you are down. Grab a pen and paper and list everything you are thankful for. Don’t stop until you have at least 20 items! It might be hard, but it’ll be worth it.
- Praying. Although I’m not deeply religious, I feel that a good prayer here and there can help. You don’t even have to be religious. Thinking about people and things you are grateful for will work just as well.
Saying thank you. You’ll be surprised how far a simple “Thank You” will go. For bonus points, add eye contact and use their name. Sometimes, you’ll feel that tingle down your spine which feels so good.
Given the many proven benefits of being grateful, it’s easy to see why we should be grateful. So what are you grateful for? Share your comment below!