October 27, 2022
The Gift that keeps on Giving
Mindfulness and mental health have been primary topics for health professionals over the past couple of years and for good reason. At Pisgah Valley, we recognize the need for mental health support and how it can affect the quality of care in a retirement community. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), “gratitude is closely associated with mindfulness.” In fact, the NCOA has dedicated gratitude and mindfulness as front and center in their Aging Mastery Program which focuses on six dimensions of wellness and here’s why…
Think about a time when someone did something for you and it made you feel thankful. You most likely felt as if you needed to repay that person for the good deed. By returning the gesture, you have just forged a bond. You have just given each other the sense of trust and support. Essentially gratitude makes you care about other people and them care about you.
Consequences of Practicing Gratitude
Gratitude is a powerful emotion and packs a strong punch for us humans. By practicing thankfulness and appreciation, the consequences are beneficial mentally and physically.
Gratitude stimulates more feel-good emotions to counteract the negative feelings. For example, instead of feeling envious of someone with something you do not have (it can be a tangible object or a situation), focus on what’s in front of you that you do have. What brings you joy? What is something that sets you apart from everyone else and makes you unique?
“Gratitude blocks toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret and depression, which can destroy our happiness.” Robert Emmons, Professor at UC Davis
By practicing gratitude on a regular basis, we learn to refocus our attention towards the good things we have. This can help us to sleep better at night, increase our immune responses, lower blood pressure and decrease stress. Developing an attitude of gratitude makes us more resilient and better equipped to handle the hard stuff, it can build self-esteem and increase levels of optimism which can help our brains to make better decisions.
Make your Brain more Grateful
Many different exercises have been shown to help people cultivate a stronger sense of gratitude in their day to day life. To develop more gratitude, try these methods:
- Journaling. Take time each day to write down 1-2 things that you are grateful for. If this exercise is new to you then start small. What small things are you grateful for such as the sun shining out today or my pet dog?
- Put things in perspective. Compare current situations to negative experiences in the past. Not only does this bring light to your strengths and resilience but it helps you to see who and what carried you through that you are now grateful
- Focus on your senses. Grounding exercises help us to stop, breathe, and think. Take moments to focus on what you can see, hear, taste, touch and feel. This can help you to gain appreciation for the beauty in the world around you.
Finally, just because it is the season for thanks and giving, don’t place pressure on yourself to feel positive and upbeat the entire time. For a lot of people this can be a difficult time of the year but the positive benefits from practicing gratitude far outweigh the negatives. After all, if you actively look you might find that your life is a little better than you thought.