By Dawn Sandone
Few would dispute we are living in a polarizing world. Though the COVID-19 pandemic is over, it left a wake of increased mental illness throughout the country, especially in children. But no matter how crazy the world is, evidence has shown that an attitude of gratitude can reverse insanity, improve overall health and save lives. Research studies have found that a single act of thoughtful gratitude produces an immediate 10% increase in happiness and a 35% reduction in depressive, often suicidal, symptoms.
It is November, which is National Gratitude Month. It’s also the beginning of the holiday season – often referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year.” Haven’t you noticed during this time of year how many you see seems to carry a lightness in their hearts and sparkles in their eyes? I bet you feel a bit jollier as well. I know I do. Why is that?
First, there’s Thanksgiving when some families across the nation gather to give thanks for their blessings. Then there’s Christmas, Hanukkah and other forms of celebration when people feel joy because they associate the holiday with family traditions, gift giving and human connectivity – otherwise known as LOVE. The holiday season culminates with the New Year – a time of hope and renewal.
But have you noticed that shortly after New Year’s, the holiday season “high” tends to dissipate as we return to our jobs, school and daily routine? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a way to maintain the joy of the holiday season year-round? There is! Here are some fun ways to maintain an attitude of gratitude:
- A Gratitude Journal. This is where you write down all the things in your life for which you are grateful; the list might include the people you appreciate (family, friends, teachers, mentors), skills you possess, positive experiences in your life, pets – my favorite. I have a daily gratitude journal. It takes less than five minutes to jot down the good in my day. There are a variety of styles out there. I’m sure you’ll find one that fits your personality and lifestyle.
- “Three Good Things.” Not only do you list three good things that have happened to you, but you also describe the causes of those three good things. This helps you delve deeper into self-reflection and appreciation for the way things come together, often blessings in disguise. Health Alliance maintains a practice of doing this, recognizing a co-worker or leader through the “Way to Be!” recognition program. It is a wonderful way to foster positive relations and increase productivity in the workplace.
- Gratitude Letters/Gratitude Visits. These involve the sharing of appreciation to important people in our lives through a letter or a visit. It might be writing to a friend who was there for you when you most needed someone’s support or to a family member who you never fully appreciated at the time. Though the COVID-19 pandemic is over, according to the U.S. Surgeon General, the pandemic of social isolation within our elderly population is not. Paying a gratitude visit to an elderly neighbor, friend or family member could help reverse this tragic trend and make you feel good at the same time.
If you need additional support, you can also check with your health insurance plan. It may provide extra perks or support to help you navigate. Research shows that even if you cannot create a list of things for which you are grateful, just the act of seeking the good in life enhances emotional intelligence and trains you to look for the good in life – not the bad. Let us use our “attitude of gratitude” and find it together!
Remember, you can also check out HealthAlliance.org for additional resources as well. We are here to help!
Dawn Sandone is a Community Liaison at Health Alliance. The daughter of a war hero (her father a WWII Distinguished Flying Cross recipient), she traveled the world before rooting in Champaign, Illinois. Her fur kids (Buddy, Savannah, & Kennedy) are her world!
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