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Senior Corner: A daily dose of gratitude

Senior Corner: A daily dose of gratitude

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How lovely to have the rain. So fresh and clean.

Good morning, dear friends. We’re into some pretty frightening times. We’re going to have to make some tough decisions in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones as safe from danger as we can. We’re being asked to keep our gatherings on the small side during this time when we usually welcome the holidays by gathering with our friends and family. This year, if at all possible, the safe thing, as we all know, is to isolate as much as possible. Of course, it will be exceedingly difficult, but we’re talking about the possibilities of either carrying this disease or contracting it.

Please, let’s all do the wise thing, so that we may have a happy future ahead of us. We are in a profoundly serious place. We mustn’t gamble with lives. Our own and others.

Let’s continue with wearing our masks, at all times when we are with others, keep the 6-foot distance and be super-clean. Let’s all do our best at working for a much happier future. Let’s love one another and keep us all safe from harm.

Let’s move from bearing down and doing something for the good of us all, but a painful decision to make, to how feeling gratitude can transform our lives. Yes, a definite change, but feeling grateful is a huge, positive part of our lives.

Robin Stern, associate director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and Robert Emmons, psychology professor at University of California, Davis, discuss the benefits of giving thanks in their book “Gratitude as a Psychotherapeutic Intervention.” Gratitude, they write, is akin to a radio channel, and “you can choose at any time to tune in.”

According to Stern and Emmons, grateful people experience more joy, love and enthusiasm, and they feel less anxiety, greed and bitterness. Gratitude takes us outside of ourselves to recognize all the many ways other people and external conditions bless our lives. Practicing gratitude has been shown to: Improve the immune system and lowers blood pressure; help us sleep longer and deeper; make us more resilient for recovery from traumatic events and post-traumatic stress; improve relationships and decrease feelings of loneliness and promote altruism.

“How do we start a gratitude practice? First, Emmons says we must make giving thanks part of our daily routine, like meditation, yoga or praying.

Here are nine, science-backed exercises to help us start a daily gratitude practice. Try them out and see which ones resonate with you the most.

1. Pay attention. Start noticing things you might typically take for granted that make your life better and more enjoyable. Consider the ways in which even the difficult experiences can be moments for learning and can interrupt feelings of victimhood.

2. Express. Demonstrating your gratitude in a tangible way “completes the feeling of connection,” write Stern and Emmons. Write a letter to someone you’re grateful for, or try expressing your feelings through art, prayer or ritual.

3. Try the “Three Good Things” Exercise. Every day, write down three things that went well that day, however large or small. Write exactly what happened and describe your feelings surrounding each event.

4. Write a gratitude letter. Sit down and compose a letter to someone who has shown kindness to you or helped you learn an important lesson in life. Tell that person what their actions meant to you, even if the act of kindness happened long ago.

5. Keep a gratitude journal. Everyday record three to five things you’re grateful for and describe your feelings surrounding each item. Make a habit of it. Keep the journal by your bed so you can jot down your thoughts before bed.

6. Do a “mental subtraction of relationships.” Think of a meaningful relationship in your life. Write down the circumstances of how you met that person and the things that led you to having this person in your life. Consider all the ways your life could have taken a different turn such that you would not have met this person and consider what your life would be like without them. Now think back to how you met this person and feel the gratitude of having them in your life.

7. Take a walk. Set aside some time on a regular basis to go outside for a walk. On your way, take note of all the positive things you encounter. The smell of blooming flowers; the birdsong erupting from trees; a couple’s embrace across the street. Let the acknowledgement of each of these positive things sink in.

8. Savor the good things in your life. Along the lines of the gratitude walk, take time to savor all the positive emotions and experiences you encounter daily. Get lost in the moment, share your good feeling with others; hone your senses to fully take in the goodness of the experience.

9. Consider your own mortality. This can be a difficult one, but don’t be afraid of it. Being aware of your mortality, without fixating on it, can help us feel more grateful to be alive and savor every moment we have on this earth. (From Huffington Post)

Speaking of gratitude, Having just enjoyed Thanksgiving, I’d like to offer what I’m grateful for. I’m grateful for the people that I love and who love me back, and I’m grateful that my daughter, Judy, made the tough, but smart call for her family, husband, Mark, sons Jeff and Brian and their families and me to spend our Thanksgiving alone and doing the Zoom thing.

Let’s keep our spirits up, and make the right decisions for our holidays, decisions we can be proud of. Stay well and safe. I enjoyed being with you today, as always.

Betty Rhodes is active on the Napa County Commission on Aging, as well as the Senior Advisory Commission. Reach her at bettyrrhodes@sbcglobal.net.

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