Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thoughts on Gratitude.....(not a belated Thanksgiving post)

Some things come easy.  Unfortunately, some of the things that come easy, aren't that great for us.  Many times the things that come easy are those that just go along with the cultural flow.  It's always easiest to drift downstream, it takes no effort.  And the faster and stronger the current is, the easier it is to go with the flow, and conversely, the more effort it takes to move upstream, to fight against the cultural trends.  These days it's easy to pick a political side and say everything the "other" side does is wrong and evil.  These days it's easy to pull our cars into our garage, close the door behind us and stay secluded in our homes, with hundreds of channels on the TV to watch and dull our senses, laptops, iPads and smartphones to entertain us, and not get out of our comfort zone to develop healthy social relationships.  It's also easy to talk about gratitude all month long in November of every year, it's even trendy to list one thing we're grateful for daily during that month.  But what about the other 335 days a year we have?

Culturally it's easier to complain.  Complain about the weather.  Complain about the boss.  Complain about the kids.  Complain about the spouse.  Complain about our sports team.  Complain about politics.  Everyone does it.  It takes no effort.  It's socially acceptable.  I was in a department store the other day walking around trying to find my wife, and struggling with being successful at it since she isn't much taller than all the racks of clothing in those stores.  In this process I walked by 2 ladies several times that were talking.  Each time I went by I could tell one lady was complaining about something, and speaking of some sort of drama that had been occurring in her life.  Literally she was standing there for 20 minutes going on and on about this situation (or maybe several situations).  It struck me how common this is and how easy we slip into that trend.  Gossip often goes hand in hand with those drama telling moments too.

You know what? Culturally it's also easy to list something, or things, we are grateful for.  But by creating a list, are we really feeling gratitude?  Are we experiencing gratitude on a deep level?  I'd venture to say no.  In our office, when we are dealing with people that suffer from stress, anxiety or depression, one of the "treatments" if you will, is to help them learn how to create and use a gratitude journal.  And yes, in the journal we do list things we are grateful for.  But it's way more than that.

It has been shown physiologically that when we re-live a past experience that evoked a strong emotional response (positive or negative), the same changes that occurred in us when we went through the event, re-occur.  So, re-live the experience, re-experience the positive or negative physiological changes in our body.  So, when we get people doing a gratitude journal, we tell them to list the thing they're grateful for, and also, and most importantly, to list the "why" for the gratitude.  In other words, think about why you were grateful for that event or person.  By doing so, you begin to re-live it and recreate the positive physiological experiences in your body!  That's not only just plain good stuff, it's truly healthy for you too!

Here's the deal, just take time every day, in the morning over coffee, or in the evening as you prepare for rest, and work on your gratitude journal (or better yet, both times of the day).  List three things from the day, or the previous day that you are grateful for and why you are.  Spend time re-living it, and re-experiencing it.  Note how you feel before and compare it to afterward.  Give it your all, and make it part of your lifestyle, your ever developing and evolving wellness lifestyle!

Remember, it's easier to complain, and that's not healthy!

Until next time...Be Well!!
Dr. Bruce

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