Last week most of us had a chance to enjoy the Thanksgiving Holiday. Hopefully you had a chance to spend time with the ones you care about and take time to reflect on the things you have to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is the day of the year designated to be grateful and give thanks for our blessings. Interestingly the feeling of gratitude or thankfulness has been linked to better health.
Researchers have shown that a person who shows gratitude and is optimistic tends to feel better and even has improvement in immune system function. This research also reports that people who are consistently grateful are happier, more energetic, more hopeful, more helpful, more empathetic, more spiritual, more forgiving and less materialistic. Also it is reported these people tend to be less depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, neurotic, and sick. It has been said “gratitude is a virtue integral to health and well-being.”
Health assessment is often measured, at least in part, by asking a person to rate their own health. Mental health and well-being can be a bigger factor than physical health in health self-assessment. Gratefulness promotes a positive mood. People who have a positive outlook and are grateful tend to rate their health higher even though they may not have great physical health. I have seen many patients with severe physical problems who would tell me that they feel good. I specifically remember a lady who was diabetic, blind, had kidney failure and had one of her legs amputated yet she would always tell me that she felt good.
Having a positive attitude and being thankful is not always as easy as it sounds. It does take some effort to be able to see your cup as being half full rather than half empty. There are things people can do to express gratefulness and promote a healthy attitude. One way to show gratitude is to write a thank you note or personally tell someone how thankful or appreciative you are of what they may have done. Another way is to take time routinely to write down or count the blessings or good things you have in your life. Furthermore, if someone seems to want to complain, be pessimistic or talk about things in a negative way, you can change the conversation or the tone by talking about positive things. Also, if faced with a challenge or if things don’t go your way, seek options to solve the problem instead of making excuses that block the ability to achieve positive outcomes. Another way to cultivate a positive attitude is to pray or meditate focusing on the things you are grateful for. Thanksgiving comes once a year but these are things that can be done year round.
Gratitude promotes a sense of satisfaction. If a person is thankful for what they have, they tend to not feel stressed and envious of the things that they don’t have. Sometimes people even feel guilty if they cannot provide all the latest and greatest things to themselves or their family. Envy, guilt, and negativity are unhealthy emotions. Attitude is very important when it comes to health and well-being. Gratefulness can improve attitude and mood. Attitudes can be contagious. Is yours worth catching?
Stay healthy my friends.
By: P. Michael Shattuck, M.D. – Community Health Network Family Physician