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Gratitude Attitude

When I was little, my mom would set a cassette player outside, in the hallway, between my room and my brothers' room. She would play various "kids music" at night after tucking us in. My brothers and I laugh to this day, because we can still hear some of those tunes in our heads. One of those songs had lyrics that said:


When you have a gratitude attitude,

you are the happiest kind of girl or boy


Something to that effect. It's been a few years since I've heard it. Of course, as we became teenagers we laughed and joked about these kid songs. However, as a teen I also had a best friend whose mother required her to write thank you notes for every gift or act of service she received. It was a foreign concept to me. As I watched her write those notes or was the recipient of them, I began to develop a more concrete sense of the power of a gratitude attitude. As an adult, I'm grateful for those simple messages and examples that still repeat in my mind. Gratitude is powerful. It's something we should practice daily, not just during the holiday season.


So what exactly does it mean to have a gratitude attitude?

Being grateful is being thankful for something, but it also involves a willingness to show that appreciation and to return kindness. It is the ability to recognize the many things in life others often take for granted. Recognition could be in written form (gratitude journaling or thank you cards), verbal (telling someone), or a quiet internal thought or reflection (meditation). We all probably have received gratitude at some point in our life from someone else. Personally, gratitude requires some level of humility and vulnerability. It requires one to see beyond themselves, acknowledge they are not able to function alone in this life and openly acknowledge this interdependence.


What does a gratitude attitude do for our health?


Having a mindset of gratitude is beneficial not only for human relationships, but also for our physical health. According to Mayo Clinic, focusing on that which we have and being grateful for them can:

  • improve sleep

  • boost our immune function

  • regulate our mood

  • lower anxiety and depression

  • minimize chronic pain

Wow. In a study with heart failure patients, the group who practiced consistent gratitude journaling for several weeks (along with standard medical care) experienced lower inflammatory markers and increased heart rate variability (HRV) and had a lower recurrence rate of hospitalization for heart problems compared to their peers in the control group who only received the standard cardiac medical treatments.


How does gratitude do all of these things?

When we think about showing gratitude, it seems far removed from our cholesterol levels or immune function, right? However, when we consider that whole stress response or inflammation process in the body (you can read more about that

HERE ) we can begin to see where our perception of life, or "glass half full, half empty" can directly either calm or trigger that stress response cascade in the brain. Sitting down to journal what you are grateful for is a form of meditation. It's a way of resetting the vagus nerve (thus the heart rate variability). Our inflammation or stress system is a major regulator in our immune health, our sleep, our mood and even our weight and hormones. It also drives (or cools) the irritability of our nerves--which impacts how we perceive pain. Insane, isn't it to think a slight shift in perception can do all of that.


Ways to practice gratitude all year long:

  • Tell someone what they mean to you or how they've helped you

  • Write a thank you note

  • Compliment someone

  • Give a thoughtful gift to someone

  • Provide an act of service

  • Offer a listening ear

  • Simply say, "thank you"

  • Be fully present

  • Offer a hug

  • Leave a generous tip

  • Hold the door

  • Spend time doing something the other person enjoys

For even more simple ways, I appreciate Tiny Bhudda's ideas!


Being grateful and showing gratitude on a consistent basis can have profound impacts on our physical wellbeing. So here's your challenge!


CHALLENGE: For the next 30 days, make a note daily of the things you are grateful for--they maybe very simple or seemingly small and range to very significant. The important piece is to write them down. Reflect on the ways life, the universe, other people or your higher power have shown love for you. If you need more ideas you can read HERE.


I'm thankful for YOU. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being curious about your health and seeking to learn more.

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