Gratitude Attitude

December 15, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

The holidays often provide us a reminder for us to be grateful for we have within our lives, as well as what we don’t have. Shouldn’t we try to be grateful though, regardless of what time of the year it is?

We all live a certain amount of time, which will be different for everyone, where we engage and/or are exposed to a large amount of happiness as well as sadness in our lives. Good times as well as bad times, or maybe looked at as a constant ebb and flow of peaks and valleys. I feel that I have a high amount of gratitude for my life, for which I equate to having come to my own realization for what is most important in my life. These things being my own gifts of my mind, body, and spirit along with those family and friends that share in my life. I think as we all become older these things become more apparent and of higher priority as we may realize that time is somewhat limited. Consequently, my mindfulness strategy is to strive to maintain these factors with the goal of not having regrets for not doing so, when it is my eventual time to pass onto the next phase of whatever comes hereafter.  With consistent daily practice of methods such as the “loving-kindness,” “living deeply” and “embracing life” focused meditations, I feel confident in increasing my level of gratitude that I express as well as experience.

I think it does help quite a bit to understand the psychophysiology that affects our mind and body as we process gratitude. I have come to understand that all emotions elicit a response from particular areas of the brain and the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and more specifically the limbic system and relative components of the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, and the hypothalamus. These regulatory mechanisms of the ANS produce a variety of appearance changes that are related to specific emotions, such as reactions of skin coloration, moisture and secretions, protrusions, and appearance of eyes (Cacioppo & Tassinary, 2016, p.448). I think that gratitude is perceived as a more positive emotion like joy or happiness, rather than a negative or threat-reactive emotion like fear or anger. I would then propose that an individual experiencing gratitude would also simultaneously experience their pupils constricting, facial reddening, dryness of the palmar regions of the hands and soles of the feet, tears secretion and perhaps lack or increase in piloerection as these are all functions of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) in reciprocity with the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) (Cacioppo & Tassinary, 2016, p.455).

A 2022 study published in the Nephrology Nursing Journal reports on how nurses that care for sufferers of chronic kidney disease (CKD), are often highly emotionally stressed and often themselves suffer health issues of burnout. Researchers in Canada hoped to recruit up to 35 nephrology nurses to participate, but eventually had 13 with 12 nurses actually completing the study program. Nurse participants needed to work in an academic urban regional renal care program, of which were at 10 hospital-based facilities and one at a community-based facility. Participants were recruited via emails, posters, and educational in-services. Nurses were required to be of at least 18 years of age or older, speak English, and work within the renal care program. Anyone that was experiencing untreated severe depression/mental health illness was to be excluded from participating in this study. Once having attended a brief screening process, volunteers that met the inclusion/exclusion criteria were given a letter of information and asked to provide their signed, informed consent. The nurses had agreed to participate in an 8-week Mindful Self-compassion (MSC) research-tested program that integrated the skills of mindfulness, with the intent of practicing specific methods they would cultivate skills in self-compassion to nurture self-kindness, a better sense of common humanity, and mindfulness where they could better manage difficult thoughts in a more balanced perspective instead of reacting with an avoidance or fight/flight response. For each of the 8 weeks a different theme was focused upon. The first week was aimed at discovering mindful self-compassion, the second week was practicing mindfulness, the third week was practice Loving-Kindness meditations and so on, where week eight focused upon embracing your life. The last week was highly important in that along with the culmination of the study, participants were educated on ways to cultivate gratitude, self-appreciation, and happiness.  Also, they learned ways to transform one’s mind’s away from natural negativity bias, while actively embracing the negative and positive aspects within one’s life and inner self. At the end of the study, researchers reported that the participating nurses’ self-compassion scores increased with a statistically significant difference between the before and immediately after intervention time points. Similar improvements were reported in the self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness aspects, where self-judgment, isolation, and over-identification had decreased (Crandall et al., 2022).

A way to practice gratitude is to write a letter to one’s younger self. This can help to put into perspective what we as individuals have accomplished, while knowing there is more work to be done. As we write this letter we can contemplate if we will ultimately become either a warning or an inspiration to those in our lives and around our presence. I believe that if we take time to look at ourselves from this perspective, we can actually change our beliefs, views, actions and consequently our emotions as we move forward.

References:

Cacioppo, J. T., Tassinary, L. G., & Berntson, G. G. (2016). Handbook of Psychophysiology. Pgs. 448, 455. Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

Crandall, J., Harwood, L., Wilson, B., & Morano, C. (2022). Mindful Self-Compassion Training and Nephrology Nurses’ Self-Reported Levels of Self-Compassion, Burnout, and Resilience: A Mixed Methods Study. Nephrology Nursing Journal, 49(5), 405–417. https://doi.org/10.37526/1526-744x.2022.49.5.405

____________________

I teach and offer lectures about holistic health, stress management, qigong, tai chi, baguazhang, meditation, phytotherapy (herbs), music for healing, self-massage, and Daoyin (yoga).

I look forward to further sharing more of my message by partnering with hospitals, wellness centers, VA centers, schools on all levels, businesses and individuals that see the value in building a stronger nation through building a healthier population. I also have hundreds of FREE education video classes, lectures and seminars available on my YouTube channel at:

https://www.youtube.com/c/MindandBodyExercises

www.MindAndBodyExercises.com

www.Amazon.com/author/jimmoltzan

Mind and Body Exercises on Google: https://posts.gle/aD47Qo

Jim Moltzan

407-234-0119


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