Your Health

Live with gratitude

Live with gratitude

BY JOEL SCHLESINGER
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, January / February 2011

Taking time to stop and think has more benefits than keeping us out of harm's way. It's also an opportunity for self reflection - a moment to ask ourselves: What really matters?

And that may be the most important step to leading a more fulfilling, healthy life, says Marion Cooper, of the Winnipeg Health Region's Mental Health Promotion program.

Yet the problem with this self check-up from the neck up is most of us tend to focus on what needs to be done and what's going wrong.

"We don't see the positive and we get focused on what's wrong and not working," she says.

Instead, we should take a mental inventory of a different kind. "It's really helpful to focus on gratitude," Cooper says. That's taking stock of what has gone well during our day.

For some people, that can be a tough order, and she says it takes a little bit of practice.

One simple exercise we can all do is to write down at the end of every day for an entire week three events that had positive outcomes.

"If you did that for one week, you would see some benefits such as feeling less depressed and more happiness," she says. "It's not like you're ignoring the challenges that you're faced with, but it shifts your thinking to try to focus on some of the positive things that have happened and being grateful for those things."

Another helpful way to focus on the positives in life is to give back. Volunteer, help a friend or family member or just commit a random act of kindness, Cooper says.

Numerous studies have shown that acting generously has a positive effect on our physical and mental health. A University of British Columbia study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that when people gave money away, they had diminished levels of stress, while those who kept money for themselves experienced higher levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress.

But we don't need a scientist to explain the benefits of being kind to others, Cooper says.

"We're contributing to their well-being, and that in turn can make us feel good - and that reciprocity is very powerful."

For more information, visit www.cmha.ca.

Wave

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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