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Self-Care Sunday: Gratitude

June 3, 2018

This Self-Care Sunday series covers simple things you can do each day to take care of yourself. This keeps it very brief, because time is important and not all of us have a lot of it on our hands. What we each do depends on a number of factors, including our individual lifestyles, and our medical needs. This info is not meant to replace any type of therapy you may already be receiving, or any information or advice you may have received from your medical or mental health providers. If anything, this is just information from one person who cares to another. This week I just want to touch on one topic: gratitude.

Each day, at any point in your day, identify something for which you are grateful. It can literally be anything. I am grateful to have a place to live. I am grateful that I can afford food. I am grateful for my loved ones. I am grateful to have chapstick. Anything. Usually around the Thanksgiving holiday in the US is when we hear about the importance of gratitude, but gratitude is important everyday and for many reasons. Here are some things the research on gratitude suggests it may help with:
  • feel more positive emotions
  • learn to pay attention to positive things
  • improve health
  • have an optimistic outlook in life in general
  • improve life satisfaction
  • improve mood
  • improve resiliency
  • strengthen relationships
  • improve mental health
One study showed greater activity in the area of the brain related to decision making and learning among people who expressed more gratitude. Those investigators found greater activity in those areas of the brain over time, suggesting that the brain can be trained to experience gratitude. 

Expressing gratitude doesn't have to mean you always tell someone you are grateful to them. You can express it to yourself, about anything. You can jot it down and share it with nobody but yourself. You can just say it out loud. Gratitude is a learned skill, and like all learned skills, the more we practice it, the better we get at it. And we may not see the benefits overnight, rather over time. 

To be clear, expressing gratitude will not heal or cure us of illnesses we are living with. It won't make our stressors go away. Nor will it make our negative emotions disappear. Rather, it can help improve our ability to deal with them. It can help us pay attention to those things that we cherish in our lives. Practicing to pay attention to the good things in our lives can help improve our ability to not get stuck on the negative stuff when it does occur. 

Thanks for reading, and check back weekly for additional brief self-care posts. I hope these tiny bits are helpful, and that you have a great week. Take care of yourselves! ♥

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