The Art of Gratitude
Good morning, and Happy Monday everyone!!
So disappointingly, I didn’t win the Powerball this past weekend… sigh… so as a typical Monday morning goes, my alarm woke me before the sun arose…
Or is it really???
The sense of hearing the alarm go off (admitting, not the sweetest of sounds… but a sound heard regardless). The reaction of opening your eyes and waking up each morning. The ability to move your body to begin your day. The freedom to make the choice of what to do with your day. And yes, you may say “I don’t have a choice, I have to work! I need the money.” While very true, it is still a choice you have… you can choose what type of job you pursue… you can also choose not to work and not make money to live… they are all choices.
What if we can recognize this wonderful ability to choose… to get to see, feel, taste, touch, and live each day we have.
A beautiful word, and one I have been thinking about a lot lately.
Gratitude – The acknowledgment of kindness and thankfulness. Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading scientific researchers of gratitude, points out two of its key elements – “First,” he writes, “it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in this world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. And secondly, we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves… we acknowledge that other people – or even higher powers, if you are of spiritual mindset – gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”
Studies have proven that gratitude makes us happier, more positive and uplifting to others, strengthens our emotions, increases productivity in work and day-to-day living, makes us more optimistic, helps develop our personality, and improves sleep… along with providing so many other benefits!
But Jacquie, this is a PT blog!! What does gratitude really have to do with health and wellness??
Well, if those above facts don’t already sell you on the benefits… according to research gratitude DOES in fact improve overall health and wellness!!
According to a study entitled “Counting Blessings versus Burdens” in 2003, keeping a gratitude journal caused patients to report 16% fewer physical symptoms, 19% more time spent exercising, 10% less physical pain, 8% more sleep, and 25% increase in quality of sleep.
In another study from 2004 entitled “The Grateful Heart”, the emotions of appreciation and gratitude were shown to induce the body’s relaxation response, leading to reports of decreased levels anxiety and feelings of depression and sadness.
To correlate with the above, in 2005 a study titled “Positive Psychology Progress” reports that a gratitude visit reduced depressive symptoms by 35% for several weeks, and keeping a gratitude journal lowered depressive symptoms by 30%+ for as long as the journal was continued.
And in 2007 a study entitled “Gratitude: Effects on Perspectives and Blood Pressure”, patients with hypertension were instructed to keep record of their blessings and gratitude once a week for 12 weeks. Results proved a significant decrease in their systolic blood pressure.
There are no ill-effects of gratitude. It doesn’t cost us anything to practice… and it is a practice. We live in a hustle and bustle world, where we often don’t take the time to recognize all of the blessings and the good we encounter and we have each day.
So why not???
And it’s a perfect day to begin!!! At approximately 2:40pm today NYC will be witness to a solar eclipse!! The result of an alignment of the sun, the Earth, and the moon!! And while we are not in the path of totality, we will still have the opportunity to see a 71% eclipse!!
In my eyes (not looking directly at the sun during the eclipse, of course!), that’s not a bad percentage!!
So I challenge you to join me… keep a gratitude journal, or even type your blessings in the notes portion of your cell phone… stop and smell the roses… notice a smile… maybe even smile back… take appreciation for what your body allows you to do today and every day.
Be grateful with me… today, and every day.
Jacqueline Mendelsohn, DPT, CLT