Today, I’m counting some of my blessings with an attitude of gratitude…
1) I’m grateful for this snow day so I can write.
2) I am grateful for friends. This includes the one that provided the Om as mentioned above. However, this week I received a message from one of my longest, truest friends back home. His words touched me and reminded me of my attitude of gratitude.
“So, I see you’ve started a website/journal. Not bad, kiddo. Looks to me like you’ve stepped your game up (not that it was ever questioned that your “game” wasn’t already on the peak of mountains) lol. …and you’re vegan? …and becoming a doctor? I can’t imagine the planning you have to have just to make breakfast and then during lunch figure out how to cure cancer. I don’t even wanna ask what happens around dinner time lol. I couldn’t be more proud of you, though and I want you to know, even though we have been out of touch as of recent, that I’m always rooting for ya.”
This is what I have to be healthy for, to be grateful for… to live for; the human connection. This includes those of friends, family (I am grateful for you, too, “macro mom”, and all my parents and relatives), colleagues, patients and fellow human beings.
3) I am grateful for those who are grateful and for the ability to touch the lives of others, even in small ways (as we all can and do). A prior (person) I had the honor of working with, sent all of the healthcare team members (including me) personalized “thank you’s” just about a week ago. Mine was extremely touching; citing how my interactive approach to the ‘mind-body’ connection through the mindfulness and clinical hypnosis activities I offered gave (them) something that (they) will carry with (them) for a long time (self-empowerment, perhaps?). (They) also wished me luck with my studies and future.
4) I am grateful for mentorship. Just today I received an email from my principal investigator and mentor (also known as “the boss”) with another mentor of mine cc-ed delineating that I did ‘a great job!’ on my presentation last night on, “Adverse childhood experiences and adult risk of age related disease: depression, inflammation and clustering of metabolic risk factors” (1). (Also, don’t worry, it’ll be a part of my future post on ‘allostasis’).
5) Ultimately, I must be grateful for my health. Without the eloquent optimal functioning of my body, I wouldn’t be here to share this or my journey ahead. It also seems gratitude runs in my Puerto Rican blood (2).
I am reminded of a ‘lesson’ that was shared by Rev. Alan Taylor entitled, “attitude of gratitude” at Unity Temple (3) a few Thanksgiving holidays ago. He shared a research study that had been done detailing the health benefits of having an attitude of gratitude (4,5). This study asked subjects with musculoskeletal disease to make daily recordings based on random assignment to one of three groups (5). The first group was asked to list each day things they were grateful for, the second was asked to record things that were irritating or annoying and the last group was asked to write things that had an impact on them. The gratitude group not only had increased measures of psychological well-being, but were able to exercise more and reported decreased symptoms of disease5. Gratitude, of different kinds (in this case moral or life-oriented), may in fact also be protective of risky life choices and therefore, ultimately, well-being, as was studied in a cohort of African America adolescents (n=389) (6). Not to mention, there are a total of 107 articles that come up in PubMed when you search, “attitude of gratitude”.
There are numerous positive emotions and I am fairly sure they each come with numerous positive effects to mind, body, spirit and the environment (if not, the world at large). Gratitude is but one. Albeit, a very powerful one. Now, I’m no implying there is no space for what we view as ‘negative’ emotions. After all, we need a comparison for the positive. In fact ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ are only based on the meaning we, ourselves, impose on the words. Rather, I am implying we just BE, with what is (including what emotions, if any) (mindfulness) and allow ourselves to inquire; what is your mind, your body, telling you? How does this change, if at all, when you introduce a sense of gratitude?
I am filled with gratitude; gratitude for life, gratitude for loved ones, gratitude for those I can be humbled to help in my career, gratitude for my mentors, gratitude for the opportunity to just be me… and a healthy me, and finally, gratitude for the possibility of creating a healthier world one question at a time.
So, I pose to you… what do you have to be healthy… (insert stutter and chuckle here) …I mean grateful, for?
1 Danese et al. Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adult Risk Factors for Age-Related Disease. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009. 163(12):1135-43. (PubMed link).
2 Tordorova, IL, et al. Gratitude and longing: Meanings in health in aging for puerto ricans in the mainland. J Health Psychol. 2014. (Epub ahead of print).
3 http://www.unitytemple.org/ Of note, when I pulled up the Unity Temple website to share HERE, I saw this week’s ‘lesson’ is entitled, “Science and the Search for the Ultimate Meaning”. Coincidence? I think not.
4 Alspach G. Extending the tradition of giving thanks recognizing the health benefits of gratitude. Crit Care Nurse. 2009. (PubMed link).
5 Emmons et al. Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. J Pers Soc Psych. 2003. 84(2): 377-89. (PubMed link).
6 Ma M, et al. Gratitude is associated with greater levels of protective factors and lower levels of risk in african american adolescents. J Adolesc. 2013. 36(5):383-91. (PubMed link).
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