The “G” word

By REV. PAUL BARNES

I know what you may be thinking. The headline, “The ‘G’ Word,” must reference God, right? Not quite. In the spirit of the holidays, the “G” word references gratitude, a simple tool that costs nothing, yet provides enormous benefits when practiced regularly.

As Maya Angelou said: “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.”

The last several months we have watched disasters unfold – Hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma; wildfires in our home state; carnage in Las Vegas and New York. What are we to do when faced with such trauma, loss and death?

Respond with gratitude.

Not because we were spared loss and trauma, but because we have the resources and heart to assist those who are suffering. Charities are inundated with money, supplies and volunteers to help the weary and encourage the despondent. During the most trying of times, practicing gratitude can fill our spiritual well. During the simplest of times, gratitude can improve our quality of life.

For decades, researchers have studied the link between gratitude and a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, improved self-esteem and are likely to exercise more often. They tend to visit the doctor regularly, which can contribute to living longer, healthier lives. Grateful people experience more happiness and less depression, according to Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher.

Researchers at the University of Kentucky found those who ranked high on the grateful scale experienced more empathy and sensitivity toward others; they were also less likely to desire revenge when they were wronged. Gratitude fosters mental resilience, reduces stress and may help overcome trauma, according to a study published in Behavior Research and Therapy.

All habits start with a simple first step. Each day, look inward and list three sentiments for which you are grateful. Doing so just before bedtime will put you in a grateful state of mind and prepare you for a good night’s sleep – yet another healthy benefit of practicing gratitude.

Then, look outward. Cultivate gratefulness by sharing your time and talent with others. Sort food at a local food pantry or donate clothes to a shelter. Pay it forward by serving as a mentor. Say thank-you, write a note of appreciation and brighten someone’s day with a good old-fashioned smile.

The holidays are an ideal time to start living a life of gratitude, but why not practice it year-round? Simply look at the bright side and focus on the blessings in your life. An attitude of gratitude is sure to bring you joy – and better health!

— Rev. Paul Barnes is the chaplain at Covenant Village of Turlock, a faith-based, not-for-profit continuing care retirement community and administered by Covenant Retirement Communities, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit senior services providers.

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