Volume 9, Issue 2

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Page 32 | Abby's Magazine | To say that 2020 was a challenging year for most of us is a profoundly serious understatement. While it's easy to fall into quiet despair, now might actually be the best me to cul vate posi ve mental health habits, one of them being gra tude. Paradoxically, suffering can yield a grateful heart, if approached with care and mindfulness. As reported by CNN Health: "In his 1994 book, 'A Whole New Life,' Duke University English professor Reynolds Price describes how his ba le with a spinal cord tumor that le him par ally paralyzed also taught him a great deal about what it means to really live. A er surgery, Price describes 'a kind of stunned bea tude.' With me, though diminished in many ways by his tumor and its treatment, he learns to pay closer a en on to the world around him and those who populate it. A brush with death can open our eyes. Some of us emerge with a deepened apprecia on for the preciousness of each day, a clearer sense of our real priori es and a renewed commitment to celebra ng life. In short, we can become more grateful, and more alive, than ever." Inspira onal speaker and YouTube sensa on Claire Wineland also embodied this truth. This lovely young woman died in 2018 at the age of 21 from a massive stroke following an otherwise successful lung transplant. Born with cystic fibrosis — a progressive and terminal genetic disease — she spent the bulk of her short life inspiring people to "love what is," to love every breath; to not waste life and to make a life that ma ers. Start a Gratitude Journal Enhancing your well-being can be as simple as taking some me each day to reflect on what you're thankful for. A simple and proven way of doing this is to keep a gra tude journal. In one study, par cipants who kept a gra tude diary and reflected on what they were grateful for just four mes a week for three weeks improved their depression, stress and happiness scores. In another study, people who kept a gra tude journal reported exercising more and had fewer visits to the doctor. Indeed, there's an en re field of study looking at the health benefits of gra tude. For example, studies have shown it helps regulate stress by s mula ng your hypothalamus and ventral tegmental area. It also improves your sleep, heart health and immune func on, and boosts mental health by triggering the release of an depressant and mood-regula ng chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and oxytocin. Gra tude, or a generous a tude, is also neurally linked with happiness. Strengthen one and you automa cally boost the other. Practical Strategies to Strengthen Your Gratitude Aside from journaling, there are many other strategies that can help you flex your gra tude muscle. Following are a diverse array of prac ces, recommended by various experts and researchers, which can boost your gra tude quo ent. Pick one or more that appeal to you, and make a point to work it into your daily or weekly schedule. If you like, conduct your own li le experiment: Write down your current level of happiness and life sa sfac on on a piece of paper or your annual calendar, using a ra ng system of zero to 10. Every three months or so (provided you've actually been doing your gra tude exercise), re-evaluate and re-rank yourself. Write thank-you notes — Make it a point to write thank-you notes or letters in response to each gift or kind act — or simply as a show of gratitude for someone being in your life. Verbalize your recognition of the effort or cost involved and be specific. Say grace at each meal — Adopting the ritual of saying grace at each meal is a great way to practice gratitude on a daily basis, and will also foster a deeper connection to your food. Gratitude The Best Stress Antidote Learned from 2020: Analysis By Dr. Joseph Mercola

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