An Attitude of Gratitude this Thanksgiving

For a person going through cancer treatments or for a relative watching a loved one endure treatments, maintaining an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ may be challenging. However, research shows that maintaining that sense of gratitude, even during the most difficult of times, helps us to cope with life’s problems. If you or a loved one are facing difficult circumstances, practicing gratitude may help improve your outlook and your mood.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is some information on how practicing gratitude will benefit you and some tips on how to begin your gratitude practice today!

Benefits of Practicing Gratitude

There are numerous benefits to a gratitude practice. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude leads to improved relationships, better quality of sleep, fewer physical and psychological problems, and a more positive outlook on life. One study by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, asked all participants to write a few sentences per week on different topics, depending upon which group they were in. One group wrote about things they were grateful for during the week. A second group wrote about things which irritated them during the week. Finally, a third group wrote about events during the week without emphasizing either the positive or the negative. After ten weeks, those who had practiced gratitude felt more positively about their lives and were more optimistic than the other groups. In addition, they also reported fewer visits to their doctors and exercised more frequently than participants in the other groups.

Reaping the Rewards of Gratitude

Practicing gratitude needs to become an ingrained habit in order to reap the most benefits. One of the best ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude is to keep a ‘gratitude journal’. Set a goal for yourself, whether it be twice a week or daily. On those days, take a few minutes to put into words what you are grateful for. Schedule a time when you least likely to forget or brush off your commitment to yourself, whether it is in the morning or just prior to bedtime. Reflect upon and write about what you are grateful for at that particular time. While you might struggle with this at first, you should find that the exercise becomes easier with practice.

Maintain a journal
Maintain a journal

While a gratitude journal is an easy and concrete way to set up a practice, others reap benefits from expressing their gratitude through prayer, meditation, quiet reflection in nature or even writing thank you notes or letters. The key is to make whatever method you choose into a habit.


Thankfulness in the Most Difficult of Times

Sometimes while going through physical or emotional hardships, you may find yourself focusing on the negative aspects of your life. In fact, finding gratitude from the simplest things in life is enough to help change our thoughts and feelings. I asked some current and former cancer patients what they were grateful for while they endured their treatments. Here are some of their replies:

“I am grateful to wake up and see the sunshine today.”

“I am grateful for time with my kids today.”

“I am thankful for the ability to truly appreciate what is important in my life.”

“I am grateful for the dinner my friends brought to my house when I was too sick to cook.”

“I am grateful for Netflix when I am too tired to do anything else.”

“I am thankful I don’t have to shave my legs.”

“I am thankful for my neighbor, who offered to help with my children after school today.”

“I am grateful for medicine that helps with my nausea.”
“I am grateful for my doctor.”

“I am thankful for the books people sent me to read.”

“I am thankful for the opportunity to rest today.”

“I am grateful I was able to eat today.”

“I am grateful for my wife.”

“I am grateful for lotion for my dry skin.”

“I am thankful for co-workers who are understanding when I have to stay home from work.”

This short list shows that even in the bleakest of circumstances, it is possible to practice gratitude. This Thanksgiving, commit to beginning, renewing or continuing your own gratitude practice. It is good for your health, your relationships and your outlook on life! Happy Thanksgiving!

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