"The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power." -Harvard Health
"Grateful people are much more likely to report physical and mental vigor (Happier Human, 2018)."
Yep, there are studies done about gratitude. Quite a lot, it turns out.
The one above, from PositivePsychology.com, seems fairly obvious upon reading, but how often do we actually think about the benefits of simply being thankful? And if you do think about this often, then kudos to you! And if not, kudos to you for reading this and being tuned into the benefits!
I love the title of this study from Berkeley: "How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain". This study took nearly 300 people who were about to begin counseling, the majority of whom were going for issues relating to anxiety and depression. Randomly dividing into three groups, one just went to counseling, one was told to write in detail about their negative experiences, and the third was assigned to write letters of gratitude to another person each week.
"What did we find? Compared with the participants who wrote about negative experiences or only received counseling, those who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health four weeks and 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended. This suggests that gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns. "
When I write down a list of what I am thankful for, how can I not feel brighter and more content after? In addition, when I randomly write someone a letter, I am filled with happy feelings. Have you experienced this? Or receiving mail from a friend, which fills me with happy gratitude, too. Or complimenting a stranger-- suddenly I have a smile on my face and feel a lightness as I walk away.
Two recurring themes to note: One is that a practice of gratitude takes time to reap all the positive effects, and that it does indeed leave a lasting positive effect on the brain.
So how are you practicing gratitude today, this week, this month? I'm sure you have many ways you can think of yourself, but here are some ideas if your brain needs some storming:
-write a thank you note to a friend
-look in the eyes of the cashier and say a warm thank you
-order from a small business on etsy and express your thanks in the 'note to seller' box
-write down a list of 'what I am grateful for'
-make a Joy Jar, writing down things that make you happy on slips of paper, put them into the jar, & pull one out when you need a smile
-hug a person in your household & thank that person for being there through this crazy time
-email an old professor or teacher to say something made you think of him or her, with a thank you for what you have learned
-find a gratitude phrase, write it out, place it next to your bed so as to start your day with gratitude
-follow my copy of Oprah & mentally say 'thank you' as soon as you open your eyes in the morning
I'm thankful for you reading this and spreading the love!
Start the day with a success.
If I get a run in in the morning, then my worries about the rest of the day go down such a great deal.
It is like my brain says, “We just did this big accomplishment! Whatever else we get done are cherries on top.” And you know what? So much MORE gets done!
Physical and psychological reasons here, if you want to break it down. Physically, moving is getting the muscles warmed up, blood pumping through my body, giving my brain extra help in ‘waking up’ so to speak. Endorphins are increasing, aka the happy hormone, making me feel good all around. Being outdoors is therapeutic, both physically, vitamin D, and psychologically, nature is known to reduce stress.
Imagine a different scenario….Wake up, still in pajamas, groggily open the emails and see one hundred problems that need solving and where do I start?? Start the day with a success, and it will set you on the right path for the rest of the day. Bonus if that success involves getting your brain and body WOKEN UP.
Additionally, by beginning your day with a task that involves more effort than just sitting on your couch or diving right into work, you are sending a multitude of positive signals to your brain. You are saying, YES WE CAN. We accomplished this, now we’re ready for what’s next. And a physically involved task is getting that body warm and woken up, as well as the brain.
If you ‘google’ this topic, there are thousands of results touting the benefits.
What are some similar accomplishments for you?
Taking a walk? A yoga class? Writing outside (no screen, pen & paper!)? Ten minutes of dancing around to your favorite songs?
Something beneficial for your brain and body, that ‘gets things going’ for the day.
Here’s to tomorrow!
Yesterday, I took Jeff's CitiBike key and set off on an adventure around Manhattan.
Have I been going a bit stir crazy (is that the way to describe it?) here in Midtown? Yes. I have to admit it. So grateful for everything we have, but it''s okay to still admit a bit of an antsy feeling after remaining in an apartment or within a ten block walk radius for so long :)
I was on a mission yesterday to get to the Union Square Greenmarket, and find some goodies...namely flowers....while supporting small, local businesses instead of a big grocery store chain.
Me + bike + Manhattan streets = NO, so I decided to go along the perimeter of the city, on the bike path, down the west side, around the tip, and up the east side, only biking on a few streets as I moved across East Something-or-other Street to get a bit closer to the market before docking.
Well it almost worked.
I got off the bike path a bit too early and ended up having quite the tour of the Lower East Side. Streets I had never heard of, seeing a completely different part of the city, thankful for not much traffic as I tried to navigate the streets....
Eventually I got to Union Square!
And wow the market was hopping. I didn't expect so many vendors to be there during covid, but they were-- and doing a good job of enforcing distancing, signs for customers not to touch the items, and contactless pay. Good job!
I found some apple cider donuts for Jeff from a local NY farm, blueberries from Milford, NJ (minutes from my parents!), and a beautiful hand-picked bouquet of flowers from another NJ farm.
Always loved seeing people on those cute old-fashioned-looking bikes with flowers bursting out of the bike basket. I attempted to recreate....Maybe not as cute with a CitiBike, but a success nonetheless!
Why am I writing all of this to you today? To ask you a question:
What are you doing to bring a bit of sunshine into your life today?
For me, that rather 'small' change of pace and finding locally grown flowers brought me such JOY.
It doesn't have to be a 'big' change/purchase/adventure/etc. Something as simple as a bouquet of flowers made me smile, brightened my day, and continues to give me a dose of happy each time I look at it.
It's the little things.
What are some ways you find sunshine in your day?
Some Good News, Week 2
Saying there is a lot going on right now is an understatement. Whether seeing it first-hand or on the news, we know we need to make some major changes in our country. What are some words at the heart of what needs to happen?
Did I mention LOVE?
In sharing the below segment, I am not ignoring the issues happening. But with all the frustrations and anger, it is also good to give yourself moments to look to the happy things still happening around us.
So here's a five(ish) minute reminder of the good that can happen when we keep LOVE and the other above values at the heart of our actions.
Anyone else sad when John Krasinski told us there were to be no more episodes of Some Good News to look forward to this year?
John's SGN may be gone for now, but good news doesn't have to stop....so just wanted to continue to share positive news... Hope it brings a smile :)
"The best way out is always through." -Robert Frost
How many situations does Robert Frost's thought apply? I'll let you answer that on your own :)
Right now, it is glaringly real that COVID is here in full and we cannot escape it. It hit and continues to hit areas across the globe.
When I read the above quote, somehow I immediately take a big breath. Yes. That is the only way out of this. Why does that feel like a tiny dose of relief? We still have the same problems as before that breath. Still the same fear and confusion. I don't know, it just gives a bit of an answer, such a simple one at that, and only a tiny piece of a gigantic puzzle, but it says, hey look, you can't go back. You can't just sit still. You can't even go sideways. You have to see what is right in front of you and keep moving forward. Life does not stop for us. We may be confined to home, but we are still moving forward. We can't run from the issues. They will find us wherever we run. We have to go through them to get them behind us.
And behind us they WILL get.
We are surrounded by COVID cases, unknown information, false information.... We can do our absolute best to protect ourselves from it, but we can't fully hide, because the virus could find us anywhere. But we will get past this. And the only way out is through.
So we buckle down, focus as best we can each day to be grateful for what we have, to take care of ourselves and family, and to be aware of what needs to get done to continue to put one foot in front of the other.
If you are an essential worker, then the extent of that to-do list outside of work may be to shower, eat, and get a bit of exercise or a nap. That is enough. You are getting through. Perhaps you are unemployed and have goals you are working toward, and you are taking one step at a time in the right direction to get to them. Awesome. Keep moving forward. Step by little-or-big step. You are getting through: both through this time in our lives, and through the challenges to reach your goals. Perhaps you are taking care of a child 24/7, but you are remembering to breathe, drink water, eat, care for yourself even just a little bit. Great. You are getting through: both through this time in our lives, and through raising a child. The list goes on! Do what you need to do each day- tears may ensue, screaming may happen, meltdowns may occur. It's okay. What IS this insane time we are all experiencing right now??
But, we are waking up each day, taking stock of the good things in our lives, and seeing how we can take those steps in the right direction each day. Getting through.
You're doing great. Take a deep breath, and here's to finding some bright spots in today,
Like having a weekly goal to focus on to help in moving forward?
Be. By Kate.
Be your best self. One step at a time.