More Than Thankful
Loren B. Hamel, MD - President, Spectrum Health Lakeland
Nov 20, 2018
I hope you have relationships and other things in your life that make you thankful. That emotion is not only pleasant, it’s good for us.
But thankfulness, much like the Thanksgiving season, tends to be short-lived.
There is something that runs much deeper and is associated with much more benefit to our physical and mental health, our relationships, and our work, than thankfulness. It has been extensively studied over the last 15 years. It takes only a few minutes each day. And the returns are guaranteed.
In short, gratitude is simply expressing appreciation for what one has as opposed to what one wants. Said another way, it is an appreciation for how we have been blessed.
Now before you get too skeptical, there are several dozen serious studies on gratitude. The vast majority show positive benefit from very simple, and often brief, exercises of gratitude. They range from things as simple as spending a few moments reflecting on the relationships you are grateful for, to pausing, and feeling grateful, before you eat, to listing a few things you are grateful for before you go to sleep.
So, is it worth it? Well, it may be more beneficial to exercise the gratitude center of your brain than to exercise your muscles. And of course, you know it is beneficial to exercise your muscles.
So here are some of the benefits, all linked to research, that you should expect from the daily exercise of gratitude. Your physical health will improve. You will get sick less often, have improved energy, sleep better, and live longer. That’s worth a few minutes of gratefulness.
How about your mental health? Gratefulness will improve your self-esteem and make you happier, more optimistic, and less self-absorbed. It also helps make you more relaxed, less envious, and more resilient.
It doesn’t stop there. Gratitude improves your social health. It makes you kinder, deepens your relationships, helps create more friendships, and improves marriages.
In addition to improving your physical, emotional, and social health, gratefulness also helps you at work. It improves decision making, goal achievement, productivity, and leadership skills.
Gratitude sounds a lot easier than a trip to the gym, or cutting out carbs, particularly this time of year. You and I both know those are health-related behaviors that are seriously good for us. But gratitude is so much easier and with just a little practice, our brains get rewired in a way that makes gratitude automatic. When that occurs, it takes no energy at all; it just gives us energy and makes us feel better.
So, let me start. During this Thanksgiving season, I’m grateful for each of you. It is such a privilege to be part of such an amazing team. And I wish for each of you, a healthy daily dose of gratitude.
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