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Sharp Health News

Giving thanks for the little things

Dec. 20, 2018

Giving thanks for the little things

The benefits of gratitude are plentiful — and scientifically proven. Studies have found that practicing gratitude improves relationships, sleep, self-esteem, inner strength, and both mental and physical health.

Gratitude is simply the act of recognizing and mindfully appreciating the good in your life. It can be expressed in a journal, written in a thank-you note, voiced in a conversation with a loved one, or even silently acknowledged in moments of quiet thought or prayer.

Recognizing the power of small daily miracles
While it’s easy to focus your gratitude on the bigger things in life — good health, a loving family or successful career — recognizing the value of the smaller blessings is equally rewarding.

“We learn not to ‘sweat the small stuff’ for our health and wellness, but we also need to ask ourselves how appreciating the positive small stuff leads to a better quality of life,” says Chaplain Jodi Varner, MA, interfaith minister at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “The small stuff is our life, and appreciating that which goes smoothly in our daily life can give us lots of reasons to celebrate.”

Varner offers several examples of what she calls the many “small daily miracles.” These include arriving safely at a destination, a delicious meal, a friendly neighbor, and a stolen moment for a quick nap, hot bath or good read.

Feed your brain “good food”
She compares the care you give your body to the thoughts you choose to cultivate. In choosing nutritious food and exercise for your body, you make a choice for well-balanced physical health. When you choose to recognize goodness in your world — big and small — you make a choice for balanced mental and emotional health.

“If I fill my day with recognition and celebration for the many small daily miracles, the painful emotions and thoughts come less frequently,” she says. “I am literally feeding my brain ‘good food’ when I look for what is going right in my life.”

How to build a practice of gratitude
To find and honor the positive small things in your own life, Varner offers three easy tips:

  1. Keep a journal on your nightstand to write down five things at the end of each day for which you are thankful.
  2. Make a habit to find things to be grateful for in ordinary moments: eating, resting, child-rearing or driving.
  3. Each week, write one thank-you note or online review to show appreciation for someone who might not expect it.

When there are troubles with the “big” things in life — marital problems, health concerns, loss of a job — there is a high potential to increase worry and stress. We may become more inclined to see all the ways in which things are going wrong.

“Having large difficulties can affect our mind, body and spirit,” Varner says. “We can become unbalanced in our thought pattern.”

To find balance, according to Varner, it is important to acknowledge both the challenge and the opportunity for growth and new perspective. Gratitude is a powerful perspective in the face of challenge because it prevents worry from becoming all-consuming. Gratitude literally balances the scale.

“Life is filled with sorrow and joy,” she says. “We must use our ability to cultivate joy by finding more and more ways to be grateful for the everyday gifts and ongoing opportunities of this mysterious life.”

For the news media: To talk with Rev. Jodi Varner about the benefits of gratitude for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at erica.carlson@sharp.com.

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