Written by: Dr. Kaitlin Justice, PT, DPT, CSCS, ASTYM-CERT & Clinic Director of Research Park
I recently read an article from The Mayo Clinic that stated “Expressing gratitude is associated with a host of mental and physical benefits. Studies have shown that feeling thankful can improve sleep, mood, and immunity. Gratitude can decrease depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and risk of disease.” As physical therapists, we educate patients on the benefits of our hands-on techniques, exercise, breathwork, and proper posture to relieve aches and pains and improve quality of life. But what else can we be doing regularly to feel better?
We can express gratitude!
Expressing gratitude can come in different forms, but I often think of it as taking time to reflect. It’s making a conscious effort to focus on the positives in life whether they are tangible or intangible. With a more positive mindset, you might think of the “bigger picture” which can then make the stressors in life feel small and temporary. When practicing gratitude, I become more in tune with the things I do have, rather than the things I don’t.
Over the last 4.5 months, I’ve had a lot of big life changes… between moving to Alabama, starting a new job at Nesin Physical Therapy, getting married, closing on a new house, and transferring to the Research Park clinic to become Clinic Director. To say all of these major life events have been stressful is an understatement. However, when I put gratitude first, I think of how fortunate I am to face all these new challenges with a supportive partner, with a new Nesin family, with a secure roof over my head, and with the opportunity to serve our community in a greater way. These challenges fill me with gratitude. Without challenges, there can be no change. Without change, there can be no growth. Why not face life challenges in a way that can benefit you?
With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, integrating gratitude as part of your daily routine can be a new goal to set before the New Year. It can start by taking a moment to be grateful while sipping your morning coffee. It can be something you think of before eating lunch or when giving yourself a mental break during the work day. It might become a conversation you have with loved ones around the dinner table or while tucking your little ones into bed. It might be setting a daily affirmation when you wake up or having a reflective moment before going to bed. Involving family can make it more meaningful. Here are a few ideas of family activities you can do to foster gratefulness together: create a gratitude tree or jar filled with positive messages, have a thankful wall calendar in your home, write thank you cards, get creative with arts and craft projects like making a gratitude-focused centerpiece, dinner napkins, or table runner for Thanksgiving, do some volunteering, start journaling.
I started using the 5 minute Gratitude Journal a few years ago. It is a guided notebook that prompts you to write down the following each day:
In the morning:
- List three things you are grateful for
- List three things that will make today great
In the evening:
- List three good things that happened today
- List three things you learned
I bet you will begin to reap the benefits of gratitude by starting with this as a weekly practice, and like with most exercises, progressing to daily practice will make you feel even better.
Here is this morning’s gratitude that I began my day with:
Three things I’m grateful for today:
- Working with a great team of people
- Traveling to Louisville this weekend to see my best friend get married
- Planning our first Thanksgiving together as a blended family
Three things that will make today great:
- Starting my day with movement
- Staying hydrated throughout the work day
- Showing kindness
Hopefully this inspires you to think about what you’re grateful for to start to live life better today, the Nesin way!