Alzheimer's blog

Take the time to find gratitude: You'll be happier, healthier

By Angela Lunde April 3, 2013

This past week was the first "International Day of Happiness", an event organized by the United Nations to highlight the importance of well-being.

I thought this was particularly timely as we've been discussing gratitude. Gratitude, it turns out, makes us happier and healthier.

Recent studies have supported that the expression of gratitude can have profound and positive effects on our well-being. So much so that when we think about what we're grateful for on a daily basis, it can actually improve our life.

For this reason I've been elated by the numerous recent postings by so many of you sharing what you're grateful for. And for me, simply reading what you wrote seemed to release the feel good chemicals in my brain. Here are just some of those:

  • "My wife has Alzheimer's, but I'm grateful to have the privilege of taking care of her ... although, I'm partially paralyzed, it's still a pleasure." — Frank
  • "I can face it (what lies ahead) with a smile, being thankful for the blessings I've received." — Angela
  • "It (being grateful) lifted the burden of caregiving, and made the entire five years during his illness very special for all of us." — Mary
  • "How lucky I am that my husband has a wonderful day care he enjoys going to, and I can go to work and do something I enjoy." — Kathy
  • "It (gratitude) put my worries into perspective." — Lois

Most of us have to train our brain for gratitude and ultimately more happiness, just like we train our body to get in better shape. With renewed awareness, I want to pay attention to the seemingly ordinary gifts that are in my life each day with an attitude of gratitude.

I want to welcome each challenge that arises for the lessons I know it can teach me. I want to be the woman who lives each day believing that happiness is not determined by what happens to me, but by how I choose to find meaning in the circumstances that come my way.

So, I've decided to make this a "gratitude blog" for the month of April. I invite each of you to contribute to this community of gratitude by posting 3 things you're grateful for once or twice a week. If you prefer not to do so publicly, then participate by starting a personal gratitude journal. The first step is to decide to become more grateful and happier.

I suggest that you try to include events that come up unexpectedly as they'll likely produce stronger feelings of gratitude. Also, focusing on people may have more of an impact than focusing on things. What's important is to establish the habit of paying attention and eliciting thoughts of gratitude. Will you join me? Let's see what happens.

Three things I'm grateful for today:

  • A long, casual conversation with my father today.
  • Receiving a note this week that I was the focus of well wishes and prayers.
  • The chance to touch your life and fulfill my purpose to help others.

Gratitude feels good.

A couple years ago a caregiving husband shared the Cherokee tale below. Perhaps it will resonate with you, as it did me.

A grandfather is telling his grandson about a fight that is going on inside him. He said it is between 2 wolves. One is evil: Anger, envy, sorrow, regret, fearful thinking, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is good: Joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, faith (and gratitude I might add). The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf wins?"

The grandfather replied: "The one I feed."

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Apr. 03, 2013