Gratitude – it is relatively easy when things are going well. But when things are aren’t going well, or they are just plain hard – feeling grateful is a challenge. I was recently reminded how important and how powerful it is to practice gratitude when things are tough, or when you don’t FEEL like there’s anything to be thankful for.
Over the past week I stepped into my role as an adult child and have spent much of my time with my father as he was hospitalized, navigating the health care system with my mother and brothers. Gratitude was hard to come by. It was crowded out by frustration and feelings of fear and helplessness and even, dare I say it, anger. It was time for me to practice what I have been encouraging all of you to do.
Applying what I know to be true, and reminding myself that practicing gratitude helps generate neurotransmitters, I am going to share with you my real-life attempt:
I am grateful that my dad has good nurses. I am grateful to be able to bring him decaf Starbucks and sneak in gelato for a treat. I am grateful to have time with him, without outside distractions. I am grateful for time with my family. I am grateful that I am healthy and can visit. I am grateful to return home to my spouse and kitties. I am grateful for friends.
You get the idea. I feel better just writing this. That sweet sensation of dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin does bring a smile. I am able to exhale deeply and feel refreshed. Did it change the situation? No, but it did make it easier to face it another day.
There are many ways to practice and express gratitude. You may find that thanking someone, sharing appreciation in a tangible way, praying, meditating, or spending time in nature are ways that resonate with you and offer that boost of dopamine. Regardless of the form of gratitude you prefer, it is a very important component in mental health. Thank you for listening to my story, and now it’s your turn.
Give it a try.
I am grateful for…
Sarah Jones, MPA, MS Strategic Design
CEO, PMD Alliance