Practicing Gratitude Promotes Wellness

Premier Pulse     December 2017

By Jennifer Hauler, DO, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer, Premier Health

The holidays are traditionally a time for gratitude and reflection. It is an opportunity to step back from the busy day-to-day adventures of life to focus on our blessings. Perhaps some of the true magic associated with the holidays is really a focus on gratitude. Did you know that practicing gratitude is actually good medicine?

A growing body of research demonstrates that practicing gratitude has tremendous benefits for one's physical and mental health. Gratitude lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, improves immune function, and facilitates more efficient sleep. It reduces the lifetime risk of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders. Grateful individuals exercise more, have healthier diets, are less likely to smoke, and are more likely to be compliant in using their medications.

A successful gratitude practice starts with recognizing what you’re grateful for, acknowledging it and appreciating it. Gratitude realigns one's attention to focus on the positive....and it is powerful. It is impossible to be grateful and angry at the same time, it is impossible to be grateful and fearful at the same time. Gratitude is the antidote to anger and frustration. In the chaotic and hectic world of health care, where frustration is plentiful for patients and caregivers alike, it seems like the perfect solution.

So, interested in practicing gratitude, but not sure where to start? Try these options:

  1. Create a gratitude journal. Each day write down three things for which you are grateful.
  2. Create a gratitude jar. As a fun variation on a gratitude journal, keep small pieces of paper near a jar. Write down items for which you are grateful and place them in the jar. Pick a special time (New Year's Eve or another important date) and review the items placed in the jar.
  3. Pick a friend or colleague and send a simple "thank you for making my life brighter" text.
  4. Stop and smell the roses. Take a walk and notice the beautiful sky, brisk air, and warm sun (if you are fortunate to pick the right day in Ohio). When was the last time that you appreciated the natural beauty surrounding you?
  5. Set a reminder on your phone to be thankful. Even if you do nothing more than clear the alarm, it fits a few seconds of gratitude into your day.
  6. Search for the opportunity in challenges or the positive in a difficult situation.
  7. Do something unexpected for someone. Surprise someone for no reason and brighten their day with a small gift or compliment.
  8. Give hope and encouragement to someone in need because your compassion can have an inspiring, even life-changing effect on another person.
  9. Be thankful for who you are instead of criticizing yourself, which erodes self-confidence. Your special talents, skills, personality and qualities all make up the unique and special person you are.
  10. Smile more often. Pick a day during which you will smile at three random people as you walk by.

During this holiday season, I hope that you are taking a break from the hectic and stressful world of health care to practice gratitude. Here's to the health and happiness of you and all who surround you during this special time of the year! Happy holidays!

Back to the December 2017 issue of Premier Pulse