Don't look now, but today is Dec. 1, and the holiday season is upon us. This year, instead of making a last-minute dash to the hardware store, convenience store or car wash (wish you were on Cory's gift list?), why not give those you love something totally out of the box (so to speak). Give the gift of gratitude. According to Joseph Sirven, M.D., chair of Neurology at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus, it's a gift that just might lower stress and improve health — for everyone involved.
In one of his regular radio segments for Arizona's KJZZ 91.5 FM, Dr. Sirven recently shared a story that illustrates just how powerful gratitude can be. He told listeners about a patient who, along with his family, thanked him in a unique and meaningful way after a surgical procedure. The patient "stood up to leave and said, 'Doc, do you mind if I give you a hug, because saying thank you just doesn't seem enough?'" Dr. Sirven recounts. "Before I could respond, this seven foot giant of a man gave me — a height-challenged doctor — a bear hug which was sequentially joined in by his wife and his toddler who gently tugged on my pant leg." It was an emotional embrace that Dr. Sirven says is now "etched in my memory as one of the highlights of my career."
Showing gratitude does more than just make us feel good, Dr. Sirven says. "Research on gratefulness has shown numerous psychological and physical benefits for both the recipient and provider, including improved pain tolerance, better sleep, lower blood pressure, less depression and increased longevity," he says. And while it's true that simply showing gratitude or appreciation for others "will not cure all ills," Dr. Sirven says it can help us "cope with chronic illness and everyday stress."
Mayo's Amit Sood, M.D., has also been making the case for gratitude. In a recent video, Dr. Sood says that regardless of where you fall within the five levels of gratitude — from being "impossible to please" to having been "transformed" by gratitude — there's always room to grow. "Consider dipping deeper in your gratitude practice," he says. "Can you feel grateful today for something simple and ordinary, such as a glass of clean water? Or your ability to walk?"
Dr. Sood says that by paying special attention to being grateful, over time, you might just find yourself among those "rare few" so "transformed" by gratitude that you can feel grateful even in adversity. It's when we get to that point, Dr. Sood says, that we begin to discover that gratitude actually helps us "recover more quickly" from adversity. And that, he says, is "the hallmark of resilience."
We'll be eternally grateful to you if you'd share your comments below. You can use the handy social media tools to share this story with others.