For some, the holidays are a time for gathering, joy, cheer, family, friends, peace and togetherness. For others, the holidays are instead filled with isolation, stress, depression, family turmoil, heartache, and loneliness. And maybe for the majority of us, it is a combination of the above.
During this season of thanksgiving, it can sometimes be difficult to maintain an attitude of gratitude. Some may feel it is only obtainable when all is going well. According to Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D (noted to be the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude and a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology), one of the five myths about gratitude is that it isn’t possible or appropriate in the midst of adversity or suffering.
“Some argue that it’s impossible to be grateful in the midst of suffering. When life is going well, when there’s abundance—sure, then we can be grateful. But what about when we’re facing hard times? I believe not only is gratitude possible in those circumstances—it’s vital to helping us get through them. When faced with adversity, gratitude helps us see the big picture and not feel overwhelmed by the setbacks we’re facing in the moment. And as I’ve suggested above, that attitude of gratitude can actually motivate us to tackle the challenges before us. Without a doubt, it can be hard to take this grateful perspective, but research suggests it is possible, and it is worth it.”
Gratitude has been studied in patients after heart attacks. Gratitude at 2 weeks after a heart attack was associated with a higher self-reported adherence to medical recommendations (diet, exercise, medication adherence, stress reduction) and improved emotional well-being 6 months later. It was concluded that gratitude may help recovery from a heart attack and that interventions promoting this positive construct could help improve adherence and well-being.
In another study of asymptomatic heart failure patients, gratitude journaling decreased lab results related to heart failure morbidity such as inflammation.
Here is a TED talk I recently watched which involves a physician and her journey with gratitude while caring for a son with an incurable and terminal illness. Can you apply her experience to your own life’s situations? - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHTmiHB6aXk&feature=youtu.be&list=PL9wE6J5iLNROCZYibeUCT9vWStvOc6EOZhttp%3A%2F%2Fyoutu.be%2FHHTmiHB6aXk%3Flist%3DPL9wE6J5iLNROCZYibeUCT9vWStvOc6EOZ
But how can I develop more gratitude?
I recommend a review of the following article by Dr. Emmons titled 10 Ways to Become More Grateful - https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/ten_ways_to_become_more_grateful1
Lastly, how can I be better prepared for the upcoming holiday season (and any “season” of life)?
I often recommend guided imagery, which is a form of meditation, as a way to practice mindfulness. By reconnecting with ourselves and being present for a short period of time, we can be better prepared for the stressors and challenges of life.
To see if guided imagery is right for you, try listening to guided imagery audio for free on this Kaiser Permanente website - https://healthy.kaiserpermanente.org/health/care/!ut/p/a0/FchBDoMgEADAt_iAzYZEYfFmhH6hhdsGiZIIGELt99seZ9DjC33hO-3cUy18_uxCLD22md9bqnCnLVZ8okd_Nd4zoysVAocj_o9bT-GM6IzVap2MBamlBCGsgEWPBohoUkKp8UErXjnTZxmGL2IKPpI!/
If you find these audio sessions helpful and would like more, I recommend resources from the following website - https://www.healthjourneys.com
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. It can turn an existence into a real life, and disconnected situations into important and beneficial lessons. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Gratitude makes things right.”
Dr. Charles Willnauer