Column: Reset Your Focus & Cultivate Gratitude

November 4, 2015

Jacqueline[Opinion column written by Jacqueline Perreault]

November is the perfect time to reflect on the past year, give thanks for the present and cultivate a grateful state of mind for the upcoming year.

This Wednesday, November 11th, millions of people around the world will pause to remember those who fought for their country and continue to strive for peace.

Thanksgiving will have Americans giving thanks for the survival and good harvest of their colonists. These acts of gratitude this month will have a positive impact on your health, resilience and overall happiness.

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness or gratefulness – all having to do with kindness, generosity and appreciation.

Gratitude has long been recognized as a state of mind or general attitude toward life. A couple simple things happen when you express gratitude.

First, gratitude shifts your focus from what you lack in life to the abundance that is present today. Second, it connects you to something larger than yourself [be it other people, nature or a higher power] once you recognize that this goodness comes from things outside of you.

Throughout history, philosophers and religious leaders have praised gratitude as a virtue essential to health and wellbeing. Plato once wrote: “A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things.”

More recent studies on gratitude confirmed impact on our physical and emotional health.  On average, grateful people are 10 percent less likely to suffer from diseases brought on by stress, have 12 percent lower blood pressure, and live seven years longer.  In addition, grateful people have proven increased resilience and decreased aggression and depression.

Gratitude can become a habit, a personality trait and eventually a way of life.  Try the following habits to shift your state of mind:

  • 1. Write it down:  Whether it’s a thank-you note, a few lines in a journal or on a post it note, the act of writing clarifies emotions which may have been unspoken or recognized in the past.  A thank-you note is the perfect way to recognize the people in your life that you are grateful for, while journaling will help focus your attention on the positive.  Consider using a gratitude app like this one and document your thoughts throughout the day.
  • 2. Pause: Whether it’s a pause this Wednesday to thank and remember our veterans, or stopping to recognize the beauty in the changing colors of the leaves, take a moment to quietly go outside of yourself and recognize your connection and influence on everything around you.
  • 3. Pay it forward: Volunteering has a huge impact on your happiness.  Make the time to take the focus off yourself and place it on those in more need around you. Whether it is volunteering at a homeless shelter or participating in small act of kindness, you will feel a greater appreciation for what you do have all while receiving a boost of happiness to you and your community.
  • 4. Meditate or Pray: Focusing on the present moment without judgment can help you cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Sit quietly, breath easily and focus on what you are grateful for during your meditation or prayer.
  • 5. Get inspired: There are several inspiring talks on cultivating gratefulness. The most inspiring one I’ve seen is a Ted Talk given by Louie Schwartzberg, an award-winning cinematography, director and producer, who has been shooting time-lapses of flowers for over 30 years. The last few minutes of his talk feature a short film narrated by David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk. Watch this beautiful piece here and let it serve as your first meditation on gratitude for today.

- Jacqueline Perreault [pictured] is the Corporate Wellness Director for Colonial Medical Insurance.


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  1. Auntie Zuzu Bouche says:

    Great article – I have just started a 60 day gratitude challenge to find (at a minimum) three things I’m thankful for each day – the only caveat is I can’t repeat an item. This act has caused me to remember the scripture in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Give thanks in all circumstances”. Selah. Have a thankful day, everyone!

  2. Sara Sargasso says:

    I wake up grateful, starts the day off right. Life is very very good! Great reminders in this.