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Grateful to be Greatful!
A reminder of giving thanks in this special month…
Barnum and Bailey circus was branded as the “Greatest Show on Earth.” Muhammad Ali billed himself as the “Greatest.” Both the circus and Mr. Ali were legendary, unquestionable trailblazers in their respective domains. There is nothing wrong with desiring to be “great” and striving to be the best in your chosen profession; however, often in our quest to achieve “greatness”, we forget to be “grateful”.
Why does this matter? It matters when our need for external validation preoccupies our emotional state to the point of creating internal strife and distress. We overlook nurturing our “inside”, because we are focused on our “outside”.
As part of that “outside” focus, we humans naturally ruminate about what we do not have and forget about what we do have. Often, solutions to problems we confront lie in front of us. We fail to see these solutions. If we could train our minds to focus on things we already have and not continually strive to get more, our attitudes would change and we would find ourselves to be much more content. Gratitude can be a helpful tool in realigning our values.
The word “gratitude” is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness or gratefulness depending on context. “Gratefulness” is defined as thankful appreciation for what we receive. These “gifts” that we receive may be tangible or intangible.
Embracing the goodness in our lives can serve as a powerful force to help redirect our emotional energy to more meaningful activities. When we connect to something larger than ourselves (people, nature, higher power, charitable work, spiritual institutions, as examples), we are able to forcibly exit our internal chat rooms/echo chambers. We are then free to psychologically enter the external world around us and appreciate the beauty all around us. The internal chatter we all engage in is destructive to our mind, body, and spirit. This chatter robs us of passion, desire, and energy. This in turn can lead to sadness, depression, and anxiety. Our brains are pre-wired to engage in “automatic negative thoughts – A.N.Ts.”. These pre-programmed mental constructs come to fruition at lightning speed and are like termites, slowly eroding away our spirit.
Gratitude can be expressed for the past, present and future. The practice of gratefulness creates a needed detour for the brain that leads to a far more picturesque highway. Distracting our minds is key to alleviating worries, tensions, and stress. Think of it as a rest area – a safe, clean, fun, peaceful and free place to re-energize your mind.
Sleep disturbance is a common condition generated from an imbalance of excessive worry and a diminished sense of thankfulness. Reflecting back on positive, happy memories before bedtime can go a long way to quiet the mind before we sleep. Retrieval of past positive memories exercises our brains to build new, healthy neural pathways. These pathways can build on each other to create a solid foundation for developing and sustaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude about the future. Repetition leads to new habits arising. These habits will serve to modify our previously held awareness, attitudes and beliefs. With a different and energized outlook, we are able to enjoy the richness of our experiences differently, build stronger, more meaningful relationships and simultaneously improve our health! We exercise in order to physically build muscle to be healthy, so think of practicing gratitude as a mental exercise designed to strengthen our emotional state to help us endure inevitable adversity.
The bottom line is that if we want to be great, we must first become grateful!
1. Create a routine to acknowledge and be mindful of all the good in your life.
2. Stay mentally in the moment.
3. Pray/ Meditate.
4. Hand-write thank you notes.
5. Remember people regularly – not just on special occasions.
6. Forget and forgive past wrongs.
Contact National Center for Performance Health if negative thoughts and emotions are impacting your happiness, sleep, or passion for life.
Rahul N. Mehra, M.D.
CEO and Chief Physician Executive