By Margot Malin, Founder and CEO of Lots To Live For, Inc.
Contemplate: What makes you thankful?
Focus on what you have by recording at least one positive thing in your life each day. Scientific research is increasingly demonstrating that practicing gratitude daily can cultivate noticeable ongoing mental and physical benefits.
A patient faced with a difficult health diagnosis frequently feels overwhelmed and anxious. She might feel as if she stepped into a foggy quagmire. One way she can begin to see a beam of light to help guide her out of this fog is to turn to the techniques introduced in positive psychology.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity better, and build stronger relationships. “The aim of Positive Psychology is to catalyze a change in psychology from a preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building the best qualities in life” writes Dr. Martin Seligman (often referred to as the pioneer of positive psychology).
Below are some simple ways to cultivate gratitude:
- Keep a gratitude journal
Write down one to three things that you are thankful for each day. On the Lots To Live For, Inc. website we sell a Gratitude Note Pad to help you to conveniently and consistently record your thoughts. This Gratitude Note Pad is easily carried in a purse or portfolio.
Hints: Avoid fixating on material items and do not dwell on things that you do not have. Spiritually refocus on what you do have.
Practicing mindful meditation can help you focus on the present moment without judgment.
Mindful breathing can help relax you and cultivate gratitude. We recommend the Breast Cancer Yoga CD Breathe With Purpose to get you started.
- Write a thank you note
Studies have shown that the simple act of writing a sincere note of thanks to someone from our past or present can help us cultivate gratitude. Even better, share the note or send the letter to the person you are acknowledging.
- Pray (if religious)
- Practice Yoga
Use your yoga practice as a moving meditation. Be present while on your mat and set an intention to reflect on the things that you are thankful for.
- Repeat an affirmation
Affirmations are simple: you being in conscious control of your thoughts. They are short, powerful statements. When you say them, think them, or even hear them, they become the thoughts that create your reality.
Here are examples of powerful affirmations: I am strong, I am healthy, I am grateful, I am thankful, I am evolving
- Show appreciation to people you interact with on a casual basis
This can include co-workers, your bus driver, a hospitality worker, or a friendly soul with whom you have an incidental interaction as you go about your day.
In 2003 Dr. Emmons and Dr. McCullough reported the results of an important study on gratitude and well-being which separated individuals randomly into four groups who were asked to carry out different tasks. The results of the study found that those participants randomly assigned to the group who were instructed to write about things they were grateful for on a daily basis became the happiest and most optimistic when compared to 3 other groups performing different tasks. (References and link to article at the end of this post). Other studies have shown that additional benefits of practicing gratitude can include improved mental and physical health, enhanced relationships, higher self-esteem, and overall satisfaction with life.
Typically it only takes two minutes to record thoughts of gratitude. Just two minutes a day can change your outlook on the world. Focusing on the things you are thankful for can provide a beacon of light to help you climb out of the fog created by uncertainty and anxiety.
The simple act of acknowledging the things we are grateful for can help enhance our health, mood, and spirit. Why not start today?
References and additional information:
Buy the Cancer Gift of Optimism: To help a cancer patient regain optimism and a sense of control. This gift includes two simple items to help cultivate gratitude.
Positive Psychology, Positive Prevention, and Positive Therapy, Martin E. P. Seligman, University of Pennsylvania.
Emmons RA, et al. “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An experimental investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well Being in Daily Life,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Feb. 2003): Vol. 84, No. 2, pp 377-89.
Sansone RA, et al. “Gratitude and Well Being: The Benefits of Appreciation,” Psychiatry (Nov. 2010): Vol.7, No. 11, pp. 18 -22.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness Meditation.
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About Margot Malin: Intellectually curious and fiercely independent, Margot Malin has a passion for knowledge. After receiving her MBA from The Wharton School, she launched her career by analyzing and evaluating businesses. In 2002 she embarked on the “creative reinvention” phase of her career with the intention of “giving back”. Margot founded Lots To Live For, Inc., an internet retailer that sells carefully selected products to reduce and relieve the uncomfortable and unpleasant side effects caused by chemotherapy and radiation.