Raise your hand if you need this season’s first major holiday, Thanksgiving, to give you an extra push to focus on how much you have to be thankful for in your life.
Most nurses do!
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can experience the cozy feeling of gratitude this November by taking a moment each day for a special time of reflection. The warmth generated from mentally saying thanks will spread to your loved ones, and then to your health care colleagues, patients, and their families.
We’re encouraging you to start your Thanksgiving celebration with this three-step gratitude practice. Even the busiest nurse can fit it in and recoup that investment with greater health and happiness:
- Starting today, notice and list three things that you’re grateful for. It doesn’t have to be a major item and it doesn’t have to be new on your list. (If you’re grateful for that first cup of coffee in the morning, go ahead and list that every day.)
- Continue noticing and listing for the several days leading up to Thanksgiving. You can get fancy with a special “gratitude journal” or stick to a simple notebook. In a pinch, you can write in the margin of your desk calendar or weekly planner.
- At Thanksgiving Day dinner, say a word or two about your gratitude list. Suggest that everyone at the table share what they’re thankful for, if they’re so inclined. The lull between the meal and dessert is a nice, relaxed time to exchange these types of reflections.
A side bonus: who knows, you may have developed a new routine of taking a couple of moments to note your blessings each day. A habit like that has the potential to see you happily into 2019.
How does seeing and appreciating all that is good in your life increase your well-being?
Research suggests that it trains our brains over time to focus on what’s right and good and plentiful—versus what’s wrong or bad or in short supply. Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis, is a leading authority on the science of gratitude and how it leads to a healthier, happier life.
In one of his studies, health care practitioners kept a gratitude journal (similar to what’s described here) for two weeks and saw a 28% decrease in perceived stress and a 16% drop in depression. Other studies demonstrated physical health benefits, such as lower blood pressure, from a gratitude practice. For more on Emmons’ work, check out “Gratitude is Good Medicine.”
Wherever you are on your journey towards self-care, as long as you’re taking steps forward, like jotting down three things you appreciate, that’s reason to be thankful!