How Gratitude Can Improve Your Health

Have you noticed how COVID is making you grumpy? My Boomer friends who are still working complain that they are tired of staring at a screen all day and the many zoom meetings they must attend every week. Boomer friends who have retired are telling me that this is not the retirement they had hoped for and are upset they have had to ditch all their travel plans. Boomer grandparents miss seeing their grandchildren. Add to this the worry that many of us have about adult children who cannot find steady work or frail, elderly parents who need our care, and you have a recipe for a very stressful life. The only one who is benefitting from this horrible virus is the family dog, who gets to see a lot more of its now working-from-home human family and way more walks.

It is easy to see why many Boomers are feeling dispirited and why our lives are now often given over to worry and complaining. I see this in my work too. People who were normally positive and optimistic, always full of praise for others, now only seem to see the negative in situations. They are worried, understandably, about budgets and ratings and whether we are going to make it or ever be the same again.

Alas, it turns out that all this negative thinking is not good for our health, creating stress both emotionally and physically. According to psychologists Maier and Watkins, the stress caused by negative thinking can actually make us much more susceptible to colds and flu — and perhaps now Covid as well? Stress can also lead to greater inflammation, which may result in cardiovascular disease, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune disorders.

So what to do?

Believe it or not, one of the most effective ways to deal with stress and avoid ill health is by practising the art of gratitude. In fact there is an abundance of scientific research that shows that positive emotions, like reflecting on what you are thankful for, can undo or potentially reverse the harmful impact of negative emotions. (Fredrickson, 2001).

That is why I was delighted to receive this you tube video from a friend the other day. (Thanks, Bruce!) It reminds me of another song — a wonderful, old hymn which I remember my grade 4 teacher singing to our class (in the days when we could still sing hymns in public school): Count Your Blessings. Here is another one that has much to which to commend itself. Counting one’s blessings can produce increases in positive emotions and thereby reduce one’s chances of serious illness.

Why not give this song a listen and sing along!

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