2024 Goal: Gratitude
When I go on my walk/runs in the morning with my two dogs, I often listen to various podcasts. A staple in that rotation is “Hidden Brain” with Shankar Vedantam. One of the episodes I listened to recently opened with this monologue:
“If you make at least $30,000 a year, congratulations. Your income is 10 times the global median and in the top 5% of incomes worldwide. If you are older than 35, congratulations. For much of human history, many people died before they were 30. If you have a job and stable income, live in a democratic country and have a college degree, you are in a rarefied group in the history of humankind. If you enjoy good health, good friends, nice vacations, you really ought to get down on your knees and thank providence.
So, are you on your knees yet?”
The remainder of the near hour-long episode was about how we often focus on the bad, instead of being grateful for the good, with the host delving into the psychology behind this phenomenon and implications for not only interpersonal relationships but seemingly unrelated spheres such as politics and even sports.
But I could not get the beginning of that podcast out of my mind.
As I reviewed that list of blessings, I realized I had experienced every single one. Not only that, but against many odds, I had survived a near-fatal sepsis episode almost 3 years ago now - so every day I’ve lived since is a gift I could have missed. Given that, I should be on my knees every single day.
The benefits of practicing gratitude
Despite my resolution in 2022 that included gratitude as part of the plan, I have to admit there have been many days when I've let small annoyances crowd out appreciation of the fact that I’m here to experience them. And that’s not just a matter of missing out on a little joy. According to Mayo Clinic, experiencing gratitude is associated with a host of mental and physical benefits. Studies have shown that feeling thankful can improve sleep, mood and immunity and even lower blood pressure. Gratitude can also decrease depression, anxiety, difficulties with chronic pain and risk of various chronic diseases.
Plus we know that positive emotions, like gratitude, encourage other positive emotions and actions – like feelings of connection to other people and better adherence to positive lifestyle pursuits including exercise and a healthful diet. In effect, positivity breeds more positivity.
Being grateful is not always top of mind when we’re living our busy lives – or dealing with health issues. But maybe it should be. Because no matter how insurmountable our problems appear, we are surrounded by endless miracles. A seed that becomes a plant. Our hearts, that simply beat on their own. A newborn baby. Each and every sunrise. It’s all AH-mazing.
So in 2024, every time I find myself getting frustrated or focused on the negatives, every time I experience a setback of some sort, I’m going to take a deep breath, pause, and remember all my blessings.
Because I truly have so many.
2023 update: Last year, my goal was to focus on strength training and I promised that I would report back. Well, it took me a while to get going but I’m proud to say that since May of this year I’ve been working with a (very patient) trainer - and lots of crazy equipment - to build muscle tone. I’m up to pressing 210 lbs with my legs, pulling 214 lbs down with my torso and lifting 130 lbs with my calves. I’m sure every gym rat reading these stats is chuckling right now, but as someone who is 5'4" and barely tips the scale at 110, I’m feeling pretty good about all those milestones. And I can honestly say that I am entering the new year genuinely stronger. Plus I plan to stick with it! As it turns out, all that crazy equipment is kind of fun. I'll let you know my latest stats at next year's-end. (Spoiler alert – there will still be chuckling.)
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