A Return to Gratitude

Bourne Pond 3.JPGSometimes we need a reminder to return to the things we’ve done in the past to take care of ourselves emotionally now. This week I had planned to post a follow-up to Get Outside! following an amazing backpacking trip with my brother in the Lye Brook Wilderness of Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest – we had a great time bonding over some of the things we love to do outdoors like hiking, fly-fishing, and just being out in nature. A few days following our return, though, my brother experienced an acute medical condition that proved challenging to treat and ultimately required surgery. While waiting anxiously for updates as he went through the process of diagnosis and treatment, I was reminded of the need to fall back on a perspective of gratitude when life throws something difficult and unexpected your way. Rather than attempting to push myself through writing something about our time outdoors, then, I decided that I would instead post about the benefits of gratitude. This decision to share openly about my own story and what I have been actively doing to manage it feels like a more authentic expression of myself.

On gratitude, a couple of years ago I accepted a challenge to track my gratitude daily for 7-10 days. Each day I listed three (3) things for which I was grateful that day. At first it felt a little awkward. I felt silly when my source of thankfulness came from something as trivial as, for example, getting to eat my favorite food. Other days my reflections felt more meaningful. For example, when I listed a family member’s words of encouragement as a source of gratitude, I felt supported and cared about by others. Ultimately, carrying the practice of gratitude forward over a full week helped me to establish the habit of looking for and noticing things to be grateful for, and has given me the confidence to always be able to find something positive in my life when things are tough.

Plenty of research on the benefits of gratitude can be found by doing a simple google search, including research on the psychological health benefits of gratitude by Dr. Robert A. Emmons Ph.D. But many people do not need convincing; the health benefits of gratitude have become so accepted that phone app developers have been working to make it more convenient and easily integrated into daily life.
If you feel the need for any more evidence or explanation, try the challenge for yourself!
Journal Prompt: List three things for which you are grateful each day for 7-10 days. As an alternative, try journaling about any of these 5 questions from Dr. Alice Boyes.
-Alex