Living with cancer blog

The path to mindfulness and gratitude

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. February 19, 2014

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a new resource — "The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living" by Amit Sood, MD, a Mayo Clinic specialist in the science of stress management and resiliency.

Two of the primary practices that Dr. Sood discusses in the book are mindfulness and gratitude. As part of our blog discussion, I thought we could take a deeper dive into these practices this week.

Mindfulness is a way of being fully conscious and completely present in the moment — setting aside your worries, expectations, emotions and other thoughts that take your mind away from the current moment. Researchers have studied the effects of mindfulness meditation and found that the practice can reduce stress and anxiety which has a positive effect on the mind and body.

If you'd like to get started with mindfulness meditation, try this simple exercise. In the morning, as you open your eyes and take in the world around you, think of three positive aspects of your life — this could be people that have been a positive influence in your life, or opportunities or circumstances that you're thankful for.

If you're thinking of people in your life — remember how you feel when you were with them (safe, loved, and accepted). Sometimes it helps to picture a fond memory in your mind and remember the special ways in which they have made a difference.

Next, send out a silent thank you to them for being a part of your life. Then think of a way that you might show them your gratitude — a little note, a phone call, or an extra-long hug next time you see them.

Dr. Sood also speaks of gratitude and joyful attention to the little things that are taking place around us. In our busy days, we're conditioned to multi-task and try to fit as much as possible into our days. Being mindful is the opposite of this.

It involves slowing down and focusing on only one thing at a time. If you're with a friend, pay attention to their smile, the way their eyes look, what you're doing together. What about your conversation? Are you thinking about the list of things you need to do or are you being present in the moment?

As you include mindfulness and gratitude in your routine each day, it becomes more and more natural. You'll gradually find your attention is more focused and relaxed and that you have deeper, more meaningful daily experiences.

Do your best to free your mind from negative thoughts and anxiety. Fill them instead with positive thoughts, gratitude and an appreciation of the world around you. When this happens, you'll find that you have more room in your mind for joy and happiness.

The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living is available from the Mayo Clinic Store. To preview the book and order online, go to:

I'd love to hear about your experiences with mindfulness and gratitude. What has worked for you?


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Follow on Twitter: @SherylNess1

2 Comments Posted

Feb. 19, 2014