Gratitude Exercises

So, how can you cultivate gratitude in your daily living? There are different ways that you can do so. One way is keeping a gratitude journal. Journaling is proven to be a helpful tool for coping with difficult situations, including coping with cancer. You can jot down 3 things that you are grateful for each day. By writing things down, you can go back and review them when you are having a hard day and feeling grateful is challenging.

Another way to practice gratitude is to take a few minutes during dinner time to say 3 things you are grateful for on that day. You can even have your family join in this gratitude exercise, and it can help them cope as well. As we know, cancer affects and changes not only patients’ lives but also the lives of their loved ones.

A third way to practice gratitude is to write a note or letter to someone in your life for whom you are grateful. We all have at least one person in our life who we see or talk to whose voice and support can get us through the most difficult days — the person who just crossed your mind while reading this — and we may not always tell them how thankful we are for them. You can also write to someone who helped you, either recently or in the past, such as a loved one, friend, nurse, doctor, or medical professional.

Studies show that gratitude not only can be deliberately cultivated but can increase levels of well-being and happiness among those who do cultivate it. In addition, grateful thinking — and especially expression of it to others — is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy, according to a report in Psychology Today.3 The process of recognizing and writing a thank you note to someone or expressing gratitude to others helps foster positive emotions and improves our mood, which improves our overall well-being. All this is much more necessary when going through a cancer journey.


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Gratitude can be taken for granted, yet for those who use it, it can do wonders. We all can start practicing gratitude now by just saying “thank you” for waking up today; for the sun or rain because we are able to see or feel it. As you see, it does not take much to recognize the little things — the ones that matter the most — to practice gratitude. The more we practice it, the more we will be able to value every day and everything that constitutes our lives, even in the most challenging situations.4 Most importantly, be kind, grateful, and thankful to yourself for continuing to push through every day despite the circumstances.

References 

1. Harvard Medical School. Understanding the stress response: chronic activation of this survival mechanism impairs health. Harvard Health Publishing; 2001. Updated July 6, 2020. Accessed November 24, 2020. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

2. Lambert NM, Graham SM, Fincham FD. A prototype analysis of gratitude: varieties of gratitude experiences. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2009;35(9):1193-1207. doi:10.1177/0146167209338071

3. Gratitude. Psychology Today. Accessed November 24, 2020. http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/gratitude

4. Thompson J. Resilience and the practice of gratitude: How a gratitude practice can contribute to your inner strength. Psychology Today. Posted March 29, 2020. Accessed November 24, 2020. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beyond-words/202003/resilience-and-the-practice-gratitude