Good morning, y’all, and happy Tuesday!
As I wrote last week, my goal of late has been to focus on — and be grateful for — the things I do have. That’s not to say that I want to ignore or not deal with the sadness of my preliminary diagnosis, but rather to acknowledge and process the bad stuff while focusing on the good stuff.
After all, the practice of cultivating gratitude has some pretty profound effects on both physical and emotional health. Some of those benefits include better sleep, improved mood, greater social connectedness, a greater tendency to exercise (!!!), deeper relationships, increased longevity, increased productivity…the list goes on.
According to a growing body of research on gratitude (some of which was cited in a recent article published on HuffPost), “those who view life as a gift experience a boatload of benefits, from a better mood to stronger relationships to better health and resilience. Gratitude, in a sense, is a muscle and as such requires exercise to stay fit and functional.”
In that same article, the author delves into some of the details on the research:
- A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison …
- In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons and McCullough, 2003) …
- Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions …
- Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.
I started keeping a gratitude journal in college, and it made a world of difference. Even though I don’t always write things down any more, I still have a nightly ritual of choosing five things from my day to be thankful for before I go to sleep. There are certainly bad days when it’s a struggle to come up with five new things — and when that happens, I have no trouble relying on gratitude for what I refer to as my Big Five: my family, my husband, my friends, books, and coffee. (Priorities, amirite? Basically, relationships, books, and coffee form the Holy Trinity of my life.)
While I have plenty of practice with a basic, baseline level of gratitude, I’m trying to kick it up a notch in order to help deal with the stress of these recent medical shenanigans. I’ve been making a concerted effort to focus on the things I do have — so, with that in mind, here’s a wee list of things I’m diggin’ and for which I’m thankful:
- I said this yesterday, but it bears repeating: I’m so very grateful for all the kind comments, emails, and messages we’ve gotten from people in the wake of our news. Old friends from high school and college have come out of the woodwork on Facebook to tell me their own similar stories, and peoples’ kindness has been overwhelming.
- Summer thunderstorms: I loooove me a good thunderstorm, and last night didn’t disappoint. We’re also due for another round of storms tomorrow night, and I might be just a tad excited (and by “a tad,” I mean absurdly) about it. Yet another awesome thing about our new apartment is that we have a great view of the westward sky, so when thunderstorms blow in, I’m able to stand at the window and giddily watch the lightning show outside.
- Vitamin and probiotics gummies! Y’all, I’m a child at heart…and apparently in my taste buds, too. I saw Li’l Critters calcium and vitamin D gummies at Costco, and I ordered some Rainbow Light probiotic gummies from Amazon — and they’re the bomb diggity. I’m a goner when it comes to sweet, chewy candies, so the fact that these things taste candy-like while also being healthy as all get-out is a major win in my book.
- The fact that one of my orchids is blooming: I love the sight of a happy plant, and this orchid is happy indeed.
- My upcoming urban gardening project: I have 90% of the necessary supplies to set up my little herb garden on our deck! Now all I need are the seeds (they should be arriving from Amazon this week), as well as a plant stand. We’re scouring the ends of the earth for a reasonably priced, 4′ or higher plant stand; while I found a perfect one on Amazon, it’s a whopping $75…and we’d rather not shell out that much dough if we don’t have to. This weekend could very well involve a trek to Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot in search of the right thing, but I don’t mind dealing with the crowds in the name of setting up my wee herb garden.
- There was an unacceptably long period of time (by which I mean about one week, but it my gawd, did it ever feel like aaaaaaages) in which I ran out of my beloved Toasted Almond java from Le Target. Oy gevault, did I ever miss it. It was horrible, y’all. I finally made it back to Target to re-stock, and each morning I find myself thanking the coffee gods that this wondrous stuff is back in my possession.
- My dad happened to have a long-standing plan to visit DC this past weekend, and it was wonderful to see him — especially since it was at a time when I needed a little bit of extra bolstering. On Sunday morning we took a long walk on the Mount Vernon Trail and talked for hours about my possible diagnosis, my job, my hopes for the future, and a bajillion other things. I feel incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful family — the fact that I can spend hours having honest, open, and supportive talks with my parents and my brother is hugely awesome.
So, with all that in mind, I want to hear from you lovely people:
What are you thankful for?
Have you ever kept a gratitude journal?
What element of the health benefits associated with gratitude do you find most compelling?