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By Susan Kujawa
Posted: 01/27/2023

Gratitude Might Be a Cure-All

I  have a gratitude journal with space to write 3-4 items that make me feel grateful. I choose to begin the day by looking forward while drinking my morning coffee, (which I am always grateful for.)  I review the previous day and ponder things for which I’m grateful. I try to note something new each day. This small change in my thinking colors my day and hovers around in my mind for the day. Sometimes its as simple and basic as that “the lights didn’t go out in the storm”, or “having my kitty home after she had been boarded for several weeks during Christmas”, or “a good night’s sleep”. More complicated was wading through my new insurance plan online with a helpful assistant. (Bless pleasant and patient customer service folk.)

During the pandemic, all I could see was four walls and woes. All were isolating, no one was close, not even my kids who live a half a mile from me. We had coffee and a few meals outside when it was warm enough. I was complaining to my daughter and she told me she was keeping a gratitude journal. She juggles work from home, house, family, hockey and makes time for me, a really stressful life. I asked her what she wrote that morning and she said her boss and the crossing guard. She can’t change her world, but she brings smiles and sunshine wherever she goes. A good lesson for me.

Thinking about what I am grateful for changes how I see my day and how I see my life. I am more content than I was a few years ago. One question in the journal asked what is my favorite emotion? I noted that I feel joy when all is right with my world. I know where I am and who I am, fitting like the correct puzzle piece.

Information from Mayo Clinic states, “Studies have shown that feeling thankful can improve sleep, mood and immunity. Gratitude can decrease depression, anxiety, difficulties with chronic pain and risk of disease.” If a pill could do this, everyone would be taking it. Your brain is designed to problem-solve rather than appreciate. You often must override this design to reap the benefits of gratitude. Simply stated, gratitude should be practiced daily — just as you'd take that magic pill if it existed. Try starting your day by thinking of someone or some event you're grateful for. It could be appreciating a friend who sends you funny texts, a friend who recognizes your gifts, or the barista who hands you your coffee and shares friendly conversation.”

Practicing gratitude literally changes your body’s chemistry. Behavior changes biology. Gratitude can boost neurotransmitter serotonin and activate the brain stem to produce dopamine. Dopamine is our brain’s pleasure chemical. Positive gestures benefit you by releasing oxytocin, a hormone that helps connect people. Some people call it the love hormone. Yoga instructors describe this feeling as a warm feeling that spreads from your heart throughout your body and into the world.

Inexpensive gratitude journals are readily available on Amazon as simple or as complex as you may desire, making this an easy way to begin your gratitude journey.

What am I grateful for this morning? As I sit warming my hands my note reads, “I’m grateful for my cup of hot coffee.” I’m going to have a great day.

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