FOR THE LOVE OF RELATIONSHIPS – The power of gratitude

The past few years have been hard for most of America. The pandemic, the political unrest, the increase in costs, crime, and chaos has been difficult to bear. I do not know how most people have dealt with this. I chose to journal about what I was grateful for. Sometimes it is the little things like having the power to turn off the TV and not listen to the news. Other times, it is the big things like when I get to spend time with my aging mom, grown children, and adorable grandchildren. Sometimes it is the serendipitous stuff like being grateful for a good hair day. 

As we come into the holiday season with the kick-off being Thanksgiving, I am struck by the research about gratitude. It turns out that being grateful is good for our health and well-being. Studies have reported giving thanks and counting our blessings can help individuals sleep better, lower stress and improve relationships. In another study, high school students who were asked to journal what they were thankful for reported healthier eating, making better choices and feelings of higher self-esteem. There is also evidence that living in a thankful posture could lower risk of heart disease and depression.

In the field of positive psychology, gratitude is essential. Making lists of what we are grateful for is a great way to live in abundance rather than scarcity. Some have reported that when they start their day with gratitude, they are more productive and energetic. Others opine when they express their gratitude in the evening, they fall asleep faster and do not worry as much.

What gratitude can do is give us hope for a better tomorrow. By having a positive attitude and a grateful heart, we can appropriate the power to get through some of life’s most difficult circumstances.

With the concern about mental health, professionals who work in the field have wondered what strategies could be utilized to help patients quickly and efficiently. Cultivating an attitude of positivity and gratitude seems to have the greatest benefit in the shortest period. One strategy that is utilized is called a strengths-based approach. To illustrate further, a photo showcasing an exhausted mom on a couch in her robe and slippers sitting on a couch filled with unfolded blankets in a chaotic living room with pizza boxes and knifes on the coffee table, crying children by her feet, another toddler in a crib, lights on a lamp with a crooked lampshade, a pile of laundry on an ironing board and a space heater fired up was presented to a group. They were asked to articulate what they observed. They were critical of the mom, the undone laundry, the crying children etc. The professor turned it around and said, what do you notice that is good about this photo. The children had a parent present, food on the table, heat, light and electricity etc. It was a total reframing of this chaotic photo and an amazing exercise. 

Gratitude assists us into looking at the positive. Even if we do not share our thankfulness with others, it is beneficial to our heart and mind. It takes us away from negative emotions and elevates positivity and strength. So, let’s count our blessings, say thank you often, appreciate what is important and savor the moment, Happy Thanksgiving.