This month’s blog comes courtesy of ASEB Board President Lance Reynolds
The world’s religions and our grandparents have always known the benefits of practicing thankfulness—think Grace before meals and our nation’s tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving. But Thanksgiving and other holiday times can be stressful too, particularly for caregivers of those with memory loss or other disabilities.
Recently scientists have taken notice of their grandmothers’ advice and are finding people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:
• Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure
• Higher levels of positive emotions
• More joy, optimism, and happiness
• Acting with more generosity and compassion
• Feeling less lonely and isolated
This year UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, just round the corner from ASEB Berkeley on Atherton Street, launched a $5.9 million, three-year gratitude project with support from the John Templeton Foundation.
Last year Oprah Winfrey, who has kept a gratitude journal for a decade, launched Oprah’s Thank You Game, which will attempt to spread gratitude around the world through an interactive Facebook app.
As ASEB’s Board President and a regular Wednesday afternoon volunteer at our Berkeley Center, I am very conscious of the many challenges our family caregivers face. While I am thankful for how frequently our caregivers express their gratitude to our amazing staff, I’ve been wondering if conscious gratitude practices might ease the pressures and stresses that caregivers face every day.
But before suggesting anyone else keep a gratitude journal, I thought I should try it myself. Only three weeks of keeping the journal got me into the habit of thinking about what I have to be grateful for before I go to sleep, when I wake up in the night, and before I get up. I don’t know if my blood pressure is lower but I do feel I have more joy, optimism, and happiness, and I can better deal with adversity. I am also much more aware of others showing gratitude. I now realize how gifted our program participants are at expressing their gratitude, whether it’s verbally, or just with a smile.
Do you have a regular gratitude practice? How has it affected your life? I would love to hear from you, and invite you to email me at the address below. If you don’t have a formal way of acknowledging the blessings in your life, why not give it a try? You might want to experiment with one of the smart phone apps that allow you to keep a digital journal, with daily reminders and the capability of uploading photos or emailing a selection to friends. In my experience, even a small effort brings about abundant rewards.
Right now, I am grateful for the difference ASEB has made in my life and that of so many others. I’m also thankful for this opportunity to wish all of you happiness and abundance during the New Year.