Count Your Blessings!
What are you grateful for? Today, I am grateful for a recent conversation with an old friend, a mentor who continues to challenge me and help me grow, and for my freshly washed bed sheets awaiting my return home. I doubt it is the size of the object of your gratitude that is most important. The benefits come from an assessment of what there is to be thankful for each day and expressing appreciation where (and to whom) it is due.
Recognizing that gratitude can be expressed toward past memories, current events, or an optimistic future, “gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish positive experiences, enjoy better health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships” (Harvard Health).
In a set of influential studies done by McCullough et al. (2002), groups of participants who began to write a daily gratitude journal were compared with other groups that would instead write about their daily hassles. The gratitude group would experience 16% less physical symptoms, 10% less pain, 8% more sleep, 25% improved sleep quality, 5-15% greater optimism, and 30% less depressive symptoms. Other studies have shown that gratitude helps to induce the relaxation response, reduce systolic blood pressure, and has a positive correlation with levels of vitality and energy (Amin, 2012).
So how do we go about cultivating gratitude? A good start lies in bringing more attention and awareness towards things we have to be thankful for (even for just 5 minutes a day!).
Here are some strategies:
1) Write a Gratitude Journal: As in the study mentioned above, taking a few minutes each day to note some things you are grateful for each day and why they mean so much to you is a great first step. During the month of December, the Wellness team invites you to join us in the “12 Days of Gratitude Challenge” to help you along the way. Join our email distribution list for guided questions and reflections to focus your journey of gratitude throughout the challenge by reaching out to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also pick up a Gratitude Journal from the Oasis Wellness Centre to get you started!
2) Say Thank You! Send a Letter/Note: There are great resources available through the intranet for a quick way to recognize, thank, and appreciate co-workers and individuals @ UHN! Ex. You’re a Star, Daily Smiles, E-Cards!
3) Perform a Random Act of Kindness! During the month of December, the Wellness team is instigating a R.A.K Challenge Across UHN! Receive a Random Act of Kindness? Make sure to pay it forward! (and let us at Wellness know with a photo or short story sent to email@example.com). Join our mailing list for tips, ideas, and chances to earn points and prizes for your good deeds. Let’s help make the UHN Community a little bit brighter!
Amin, A. (2012). “The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life.” http://happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/
Harvard Health. “Gratitude.” Positive Psychology. http://www.health.harvard.edu