Autumn may seem like an odd time to discuss gratitude, but it is the harvest time, so not that odd. And it’s my favorite time of the year. Except maybe for spring, which is also my favorite. And summer, when the beach is hot and the waves are cool. And winter, when the snow is piled high and the cocoa is on the stove. Anyway….. Autumn.
Yes, that’s my backyard. I’m exceedingly grateful for this view!
Autumn is when the perfect weather kicks in, school starts, and parents rejoice. It’s like a whole new start to life. I’m so happy to be back in Bible Study Fellowship, studying Moses this time around, an excellent counterpoint to the Gospel of Matthew from last spring and summer when I started with BSF. Last week, our readings, discussion, and lecture included the immediate aftermath of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt. Oh, hey, there’s a movie out that looks pretty promising, about the Exodus! Squirrel! Ahem, back to that aftermath. It took exactly three days from the crossing of the Red Sea before the Israelites started getting anxious and cranxious. Water? Food? More water? What now? The whole “giant walls of water that let us through but drowned the Egyptians” lesson was quickly forgotten when their immediate physical needs took control, and they forgot about trust, and they forgot about gratitude.
And as one season begins, another season ends. I had a pretty amazing triathlon season, starting training in early January, with my first race in Smithfield, VA in April, and just finishing up with my final race at Beach 2 Battleship, in Wilmington, NC. Races always fill me with such a sense of gratitude and humility. I see volunteers out in the pre-pre-dawn hours setting up, and later they smile as they hand you a drink, gel, or salt tabs; they give you encouragement as they sharpie your number onto your calf and comment that you really do not look “that” age; they stand and cheer for hours, and cheer for everyone! I had an awesome coach all season, Jeff Parr, with Total Triathlon Training. He was tolerant of my sudden desires to enter a random 5K or 10K, worked with my work and rest schedule, pushed my swim/bike/run/mental race envelopes, and helped me achieve a whole bunch of podium finishes, and a nice collection of award paraphernalia. I’ve said that I wanted to a)enjoy the races b)do well in the races and c)learn something from each race about how to improve. And with all three goals met, I’m looking forward to another great season in 2015!
Chris (my amazing husband, for whose love and patience I am grateful beyond measure) took this awesome finish line picture! Yeehah!
So, back to gratitude. I’m exceedingly grateful for this year, despite moments of rockiness and rough water. And yet, I think of the rocky coast of Maine, and the waves there, and the beauty that Chris and I experienced there this summer.
Thunder Hole, Mount Desert Island, Maine.
What does gratitude have to do with our health? It’s obviously part of a set of emotional responses associated with good mental health. Pubmed is full of useful studies. One study of over 400 people, found that those people who had higher “gratitude scores” had fewer sleep problems, with a higher correlation than any other single factor. I’m all about sleep. Sleep, diet, and exercise are the Big Three of Good Health. Gratitude has also been found to link to maintaining better long-term positive physical health behaviors, such as doctor (or NP) follow up after surgery, and participation in good diet and exercise habits after heart surgery. One study of 110 health care professionals found that those of us who kept “gratitude diaries” were less likely to report fewer symptoms of depression. (And if you’ve had the kind of week/month/year that I’ve had at work, that gratitude diary may be what keeps you going.) Another study found an actual measurable difference in the brain configuration (specifically the posterior cortical volume) of people who reported more feelings of gratitude versus feelings of pride. It makes me wonder if this can be altered; can we actually change the shape of our brains if we practice gratitude? At any rate, for my New Year’s Resolution, fiscal year 2014-15, I will make a deliberate effort to practice gratitude. And thank you all for reading this blog, please comment and share as appropriate!