By Lana Turnbull
As we start out a new year, it’s a good time to reflect on the year past and think about how we can make positive changes for the future. There’s the typical list of resolutions we want to accomplish, starting with getting in shape, losing some weight, spending more time with family and friends, and so on. These are all important goals to set, but did you ever think about resolving to be more grateful?
It turns out the simple, but profound act of being grateful for our blessings can actually have an impact on our health. According to Doris Whitaker, head chaplain at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, “Being thankful helps us to operate from a particular mindset. That mindset sets the foundation for what we think, do or say for that day. Being grateful can have a positive effect. If I’m down and I’m reminded of things to be grateful for, it keeps me moving forward. I think that’s important.”
In her position at UMMC, Ms. Whitaker witnesses the miracle of gratefulness at the most unlikely times.
“We’re a Level I trauma center. We get devastating accidents and illness, but we still have those patients who say it could have been worse. It floors me at times.”
Dr. Joshua Mann, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at UMMC notes, “There are studies that show that people with higher levels of gratitude have better moods and reduced stress, and there’s even some linkage to reduced inflammation.”
While some of us just naturally have a “grateful” attitude, finding good in everything around them, (my mom is a perfect example of that) others of us are more likely to see impediments instead of stepping stones. Fortunately, we can learn to be grateful with practice. We can start the day with a prayer of gratitude or meditation on the blessings we have. We can continue the exercise through the day by saying grace before each meal, something we did “religiously” in my family every day when I was growing up, but that I too often forgo now in the rush of the day. And finally, we can end the day whispering a thankful prayer.
I’m currently in the process of rereading a little book by Charles L. Allen called God’s Psychiatry. Allen offers a prescription for mental and spiritual wellness that can also have a positive impact on physical health. His prescription calls for reading the Twenty-third Psalm slowly and thoughtfully five times a day for seven days. When I think about it, that Psalm sums up everything of meaning we need to be grateful for by acknowledging the blessings of love and protection offered by our heavenly Father. We don’t even have to ask for it. It’s just there, always and forever.
The Twenty-third Psalm The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.