One might look back at 2020 and ask what could I possibly be grateful for? Indeed, it has been an unprecedented year with unparalleled hardship for so many. Now, more than ever, it is important we find gratitude. Gratitude is so often a buzz word for November. With Thanksgiving approaching, we naturally might reflect on our blessings. However, gratitude is instrumental to personal wellness every month.
The other day I was talking to one of our Child Life specialists in the emergency department at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. She was talking about how 2020 has shifted her husband’s career to working from home. Instead of long days and busy travel agendas, he is able to work, while simultaneously taking part in the daily milestones and growth of their sweet 20-month-old daughter, an opportunity he ordinarily would have missed. In a similar vein, I tuned into a recent webinar that focused on point of view. The encouragement was this: rather than being upset about those who don’t wear a mask in public, be thankful for how many people do wear a mask. These are simple acts of gratitude.
Gratitude is thankful appreciation for the things in one’s life. Gratitude is a state of mind. Gratitude takes practice. Gratitude is a choice to focus on good things instead of bad. This is a powerful emotion that has the ability to transform our thoughts and allow re-focus on the good in our lives. It is linked to many positive benefits.
Use gratitude to center yourself. Complaining breeds negativity. Positive thinking leads to a happier outlook. One Harvard source cited that in psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions and enjoy good times.
Use gratitude to enhance relationships. Gratitude in the workplace can motivate others to work harder. Gratitude among couples can help express emotions and improve attitudes toward each other.
Use gratitude for self-motivation. Gratitude can increase self-esteem. Think about the gifts you have been given and be grateful for your abilities. By focusing on your talents, you may be inspired to look around and see what you have to share with others.
Use gratitude to overcome obstacles. Gratitude fosters resilience and may reduce stress. A simple demonstration can happen while waiting in a long line at the grocery store. Rather than being impatient at the patron paying with check and rifling through their coupons while holding up the line, you can shift your mindset to appreciate that you have money to buy food, knowledge to make healthy choices and family with whom you share meals.
Use gratitude to live in the present. Gratitude can help you live in the moment and ease worry about things outside of your control. It can also encompass being thankful for the past (positive memories, influential teachers, past blessings) and future (maintaining a positive outlook).
Use gratitude to improve health. There are stress reduction benefits to improving your mindset through gratitude. Gratitude can impact both the expresser and the recipient.
The benefits of gratitude are important to all of us. Cultivating gratitude takes little effort but asks for your mental energy in choice, intent and practice. Consider these suggestions to begin or enrich your gratitude journey.
Choose gratitude the next time you are frustrated.
Tell someone you appreciate them and why.
Pick 3 things each day to jot in your phone. This app gives you a daily reminder.
Start a gratitude text thread with a group of friends. Each day share something you are grateful for.
Challenge yourself to incorporate gratitude into each day. November is the perfect time to start. Can you make it a daily habit to sustain? Set a goal for yourself through the winter months to find gratitude. In emergency medicine, we find ourselves facing constant change, challenge, stress and fatigue. If we cultivate our gratitude, we will show up better each day for our families, our patients—and most importantly—ourselves.