Finding purpose through gratitude

Leah Heaston, MSW, LCSW, LCAC, LifeBridge Senior Program, suggests a healthy mental and emotional well-being is just as important as the phsycial when pursuing your purpose. See her argument for why and run through some simple exercises for increasing gratitude and lowering stress.

We all know eating sensibly, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking or excessive use of alcohol or drugs will reduce our risk for many serious illnesses. We each do what we can to adopt a healthy lifestyle. If we overeat at a holiday party, we try to adjust for those extra calories by eating more fruits and veggies the next couple of days, or by taking a longer route when we go out to walk the dog.                              

An area that is often overlooked is the impact stress has on not only our mental and emotional state, but on our physical health as well. Left unattended, stress can lead to serious problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and more. It can make us more prone to viral infections like a cold or the flu, and may even make the vaccines for these infections less effective. Taking a few minutes each day to support your emotional well-being is just as important as exercise and nutrition.

The healing effects of gratitude
“Gratitude is many things to many people. It is wonder; it is appreciation; it is looking on the bright side of a setback; it is fathoming abundance; it is thanking someone in your life; it is thanking God; it is ‘counting blessings.’ It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is coping; it is present-oriented.” – “The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want” by Sonja Lyumbomirsky.

The 5, 3, 2 Gratitude Challenge: 
Each day, before you step out of bed, spend five minutes thinking about three people who care about you or for whom you are grateful. Jot down their names and a few words about why you are grateful for them on a pad of paper you will keep at your bedside.

Spend three minutes each day talking with your spouse, family member, friend or co-worker. Creatively and genuinely praise them for something they’ve said or done – don’t try to improve them, just take a genuine interest in them and their interests. The conversation could start with, “You were really right when...”
Take two seconds before you meet with others and look at them and at the world the way you want the world to look at your child. With sincerity, silently wish them well, wish them hope, wish them healing.

These few minutes each day can reduce your stress and provide lasting benefits for your health.

The Vowel Check*

A: Have I been abstinent today from unhealthy choices? 
E: Have I exercised today? (movement)
I: What have I done for myself today?
O: What have I done for others today?
U: Am I holding onto any unexpressed emotions today?
Y: Yeah! What is something good that has happened today?  What am I grateful for and why?

*Featured in “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown


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