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The effect of gratitude on our mental health and outlook on life

A friend recently let me in on her secret to a happy life. That is quite a gift to receive, and I am very grateful. She explained that she each and every day writes a note to herself about the wonders she has experienced that day, what she is grateful for and what has made her smile. She writes her note on a coloured Post-it note, which she dates, folds in half with the sticky bit on the inside and deposits it in a large clear jar. As her jar fills up throughout the year, she can physically take out one or a handful of pretty and inspiring notes to remind herself of how amazing her life is, full of pleasant moments and wonderful people. Or she can just even walk past the jar in its special place and glance at it, and know that life is good! I love that idea, and intend to give it a go, starting tomorrow….

The research tells us again and again how important gratitude is for our mental health and outlook on life. I stumbled over this one study looking at the impact of gratitude on the brain on a group of people seeking treatment for depression and anxiety (1). Half the group did a gratitude writing intervention, the other half had ‘therapy as usual’. After three months, the gratitude group reported feeling more grateful than the control group, and also demonstrated more activity on fMRI in the medial prefrontal cortex in areas related to gratitude. The researchers commented on the profound and long lasting effects of the exercise, which is something we all can take on board and practice.

I am so inspired by this type of research, and have tried many times to do the ’21 days to change a habit’; sharing with my family what we were grateful for that day over dinner, daily writing in a Gratitude Diary and sending letters of thanks to family members and friends. I am unfortunately a bit of a failure at forming new positive habits, because I stick to it religiously for a month and then get side-tracked for a day or two and promptly forget all about it. Now, this time it’s going to be different – I’ll do it for a year!

Because I have so many things in my life that I am incredibly grateful for, particularly my wonderful profession:

Chiropractic allows me to play with kids and babies every day and experience a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment when they improve in feeling and function.

My amazing chiropractic colleagues who willingly share their wisdom to help improve chiropractic care for children across the globe.

And my marvellous colleagues who show up at events and help us raise funds for research into chiropractic care for children so together we can make a serious difference in the lives of children of the future. Last year, we raised almost $30,000 at The Kids’ Summit this year, which has all been donated for research into chiropractic care for children. It is absolutely awesome, and I for one, am eternally grateful!

On that note, let’s look forward to this year’s summit which is going to be equally amazing. You will once again have an opportunity to make a difference for Kids’ Chiropractic. The Kids’ Summit will be held in Chicago in September. We have some incredible speakers lined up – it’s going to be tremendous. So put September 29 – 30, 2018 in your diary now, and we’ll see you there. (September is a beautiful time of year to visit the Midwest USA!)


Reference:

  1. The effects of gratitude expression on neural activity Kini et al. Neuroimage. 2016 Mar

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