Alzheimer's blog

Gratitude is the one pill everyone should be prescribed

By Angela Lunde March 19, 2013

A new pill is available that's likely to improve your energy and resiliency, enhance your immunity, lift your mood, offer you greater feelings of joy, and improve compassion toward self and others. And it has no side effects.

Will you take it?

In a posting a couple of weeks ago, Raymond offered thanks to his wife for attending our conference and shared how it fed her spirit, and as a result his as well. He spoke of the love he and his wife still have for one another and the acceptance that resonates in their home. Raymond said he has a memory problem and now depends on his wife. However, gratitude was Raymond's prevailing message.

Gratitude is that pill.

Many of us probably don't think about gratitude all that often in our day-to-day lives. Although most of us will habitually focus on what's going wrong-the feelings of rejection, the losses, hurts, our imperfections. It's easy to draw our attention away from what we have and into that dark place of what we don't have, or think we need.

Being grateful doesn't mean we deny what's wrong or difficult or unfair in our life.

Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis, and one of the foremost authorities on the topic of gratitude, says, "To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings."

Gratitude shifts our focus from what our life lacks to the abundance that's already present. The truth is that each that each of us has something good in our life that millions of others don't. And when we are regularly mindful of what we have to be grateful for, we can be happier, more resilient, our relationships strengthen and our burdens often lift. Gratitude enriches human life, no matter what our situation.

Today, research is charting evidence that gratitude opens the heart and activates positive emotion centers in the brain. When we focus our attention on the things for which we're grateful, the blessings in our life, we can actually change the way neurons in our brain are wired. Ultimately, this means that with practice, we can cultivate positive states of mind.

Sarah Ban Breathnach, author on the topic of gratitude, writes, "Real life isn't always going to be perfect or go our way, but the recurring acknowledgement of what is working in our lives can help us not only to survive but surmount our difficulties."

Dr. Amit Sood, director of research & practice and complementary integrative therapies at Mayo Clinic, says, "Without gratitude, happiness is not accessible."

No doubt though, gratitude doesn't seem to come as easily as grumbling, so it really does take practice. There are many methods to develop the practice of gratitude.

A gratitude journal is one way. It consists of writing down a few things each day for which you are grateful. Some days it may be the basics-your home, a friend, the flowers you bought yourself to brighten the room, your health, your pet, a comfortable bed to wake up in. Breathnach's book "Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude" is one such tool.

Now back to Raymond. He's not denying he has memory problems or that he is becoming more dependent on his wife, yet this is not what he chooses to focus on. Raymond chooses gratitude. He is grateful for what he has-the capacity to love and feel love, grateful for the ways in which his wife lifts her spirit and his, and grateful for the bond they continue to share. Clearly, Raymond chooses the gratitude pill.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." - Melody Beattie

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Mar. 19, 2013