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Gratitude q.d.

Life can be hard and when you add being a nurse on top of it, the physical and emotional burdens can take a serious toll on well-being.  The Thanksgiving holiday provides a well-deserved break and everything from spending time with family, to enjoying a good meal, or even some retail therapy, are all opportunities to unwind, restore, and nourish our minds and bodies.  It’s also the time of year for the annual ambush of gratitude that seems to dissipate just as quickly as the Thanksgiving meal.  While taking a moment to “count your blessings” this holiday season is certainly valuable, research suggests gratitude may be associated with better physical and psychological health, an increase in happiness and life satisfaction, improved stress management, and overall enhancement of well-being.  With benefits like these, it’s worth considering if an annual gratitude practice is enough.  Expressing gratitude, sharing gratitude, and even witnessing gratitude can help cultivate a community of kindness and care, and is especially important for nurses who spend their days generously giving their support, advocacy, attention, and time to others, often in highly stressful situations.  Developing a regular gratitude practice doesn’t have to be another item on the “to-do list.”  Below are some evidence-based gratitude practices specifically recommended for nurses.

Gratitude Journal

Counterbalance the natural tendency to focus on negativity by acknowledging happy moments, thoughts, and experiences, however big or small.  Translating thoughts into concrete words intensifies the psychological impact.  Don’t worry too much about length or breadth, focus more on true feeling and authenticity.  Some days, gratitude will flow and other days, the gratitude tank might feel empty.  If this happens, think of something simple, general, or even seemingly frivolous.  It may also help to consider different categories like relationships, an experience or encounter from that particular day, something you see and feel in that exact moment, etc.  Connect your “journaling” to an already established habit to more easily integrate it into your wellness routine.  For instance, right after brushing your teeth at night or with your first cup of coffee in the morning.

Gratitude Moments

Similar to gratitude journaling, taking gratitude moments is the practice of making mental notes of appreciation throughout the day.  Spontaneous moments of gratitude can happen to everyone, but actually planning for or scheduling them into our day can significantly impact levels of gratitude and result in positive associated benefits.  Implement these moments by thinking of what you’re grateful for each morning as you enter your office, while you’re washing your hands, or right before eating a meal.  These can serve as useful resets throughout stressful, busy days that otherwise might continue to negatively spiral.

Gratitude Notes

Expressing gratitude to others can be one of the strongest ways to foster social connections, reduce stress, and boost feelings of happiness.  Taking just a minute or two to let others know what you appreciate about them or how they helped you packs double the punch–gratitude and warmth multiply in both the individual giving the thanks as well as the individual receiving it.  The key is to not overthink the note, just be sincere and specific.  Whether it’s a post-it on a colleague’s desk, a quick email or text to a friend, or a verbal “you’re the best” to a neighbor, making a habit of dropping notes of gratitude throughout your week is like spreading seeds of gratitude out into the world you’re living in.

Of all the gifts you can give yourself and others, the gift of persistent gratitude may be the most valuable. Counting your blessings regularly will help you value what you have, appreciate what you have to be thankful for, and improve your health and well-being in the process.

MacGill is thankful every day for school nurses! Check out our video of appreciation from School Nurse Day 2022 HERE.

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