fbpx
L.J. Rohan

L.J. Rohan

Gerontologist

A Gratitude Attitude is Where It’s At

Today, I would like to let you in on a few of the secrets which result from being grateful, and to offer a helpful tool to guide you on your journey toward adding gratitude and appreciation into your life during this holiday season, and every day. It is a meditation I wrote several years ago at the request of friends. You may access it from the yellow shining sun icon on the homepage of my website, www.LJRohan.com , or drop into your App Store and download it: Lysa Rohan Gratitude Meditation™. My recommendation is to add this quick and easy 10-minute meditation into your day and during this week, and then notice how you feel.

So what does being more grateful do for our body, mind, and spirit?  GREAT things! Dr. Robert C. Roberts, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Philosophy at Baylor University wrote in the book The Psychology of Gratitude, an important collection of scientific research on the subject of gratitude and gratefulness, “Grateful people tend to be satisfied with what they have and so are less susceptible to such emotions as disappointment, regret, and frustration. [They have]… a powerful resource for transcending many of the circumstances that disappoint, frustrate, and anger most of us. In consequence, grateful people, whether religious or not, will be less prone to emotions such as anger, resentment, envy, and bitterness.”

The most current research backs up the work of Dr. Roberts. It reveals that grateful individuals experience a wide variety of physical, social and psychological health benefits. For example, folks who practice gratitude say they feel more alive, healthier, and have greater vitality. They see themselves as having an enhanced capacity to be independent and make their own choices using their free will.

 Practicing gratitude makes us psychologically healthier, as well.  We will more often choose healthy activities over unhealthy ones, and are more likely to seek help for health concerns when they do occur, than those of us who don’t have a grateful outlook. Other psychological benefits from adopting an attitude of gratitude include greater emotional stability, and a more positive opinion of ourselves, others, and a greater sense of optimism about life in general. All good news!

 To add even more benefits to the growing pile, grateful individuals tend to report less stress, less anxiety, greater life satisfaction, and better sleep. When we have higher life satisfaction we tend to smoke less and exercise more, and more often choose healthy activities across the board. Even more good news?  These results are found in many different cultures around the world.

Doc Childre and Howard Martin in The HeartMath Solution, the first book from the HeartMath Institute, which documents their ground-breaking research on the energetic and emotional workings of the heart’s response to thoughts of appreciation, found this to be true from their years of research:  Extensive studies using both a Heart Rate Variability machine, equipment very similar to an EKG, and measuring the antibody IgA, an important component in our immune system that fights against invading pathogens and is a key indicator of the health of our immune systems, shows that our heart rate slows when we make the shift to being grateful and these healing, life-enhancing antibodies are released into our blood stream for up to six hours.  That’s a huge pay off for the single choice to shift our perspective to one of gratitude.

This week, especially for my readers in the US who are celebrating Thanksgiving, try and practice my meditation as many days as possible. Notice how you feel afterwards and in the days that follow. Maybe jot down a few notes about these feelings and any thoughts that come to you. Enjoy this journey!

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

A Gratitude Attitude is Where It’s At

I recently had lunch with a dear friend who is in his mid-eighties. In our many years of friendship we have covered a huge variety of topics from politics to the latest James Bond movie to the best kind of pajamas (cotton, with dog print, of course.) A couple of years ago, I noticed a shift in his thought process and responses.

He is still as sharp as a Swiss Army knife, however, when we hit on a topic and I offer a counter perspective, in the past he would nod, contemplate my words and offer a considered response. Lately, he has gone from doing that to simply dismissing my opinion as irrelevant. The pitch of his dismissal has also escalated. He has developed a habit, which I see is a variation of the Socio-emotional Selectivity Theory in action: Selective Exposure Theory.

This can happen at any age, but it is a behavior often adopted by the elderly. This behavior is happening in the US in greater numbers and is becoming a growing concern for the seniors’ friends and family. More and more these seniors refuse to hear anything that defies their set beliefs, or their worldviews. Does it really matter if we get set in our ways? It matters because it is a sign that these people no longer want to be fully engaged in the world, learn new things, or think deeply about important life/cultural issues specific to their areas of interest or expertise, as in the case of my friend who is a literary scholar.

This decision, whether conscious or unconscious, halts the intake of new information, a critical part of keeping our brains engaged, active, and challenged; all key components in opposing the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s. We become what my sweet grandmother used to call, “set in our ways.”

I have said many times before, (and will again!) our bodies are “use it or lose it” cellular machines, and that is equally true for our brains, our emotional hearts, and our physical bodies. I call this behavior Locking In, and once we start to lock in, our brains in all areas, begin to atrophy. The first to falter are our memory functions followed by our higher reasoning skills. From there we start to favor re-runs of I Love Lucy and twenty-four-piece puzzles. Maybe not right away, but the die is cast.

Now for some good news! You, or a loved one can avoid the above scenario by making different choices. Remember, if you don’t like the way your life is going, you have the power to re-choose.

Here are a few ideas to engage your mind if you begin to feel the Selective Exposure Theory surfacing in your psyche or see it creeping into a loved one’s:

  1. Go to a lecture/discussion group on a topic you are only mildly interested in, listen to the comments, and keep an open mind;
  2. Even better, learn about something completely new that you have no prior knowledge of;
  3. Listen to music other than what you prefer, and try to appreciate its value;
  4. Take a break from your usual reading preference and try something different. If you like mysteries or romances, check out some historical non-fiction, true crime, or sci-fi. Then, find a friend who loves that genre and share opinions;
  5. Sign up to volunteer in a field you know nothing about. (For me that would be childcare ;-))

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. The goal is to challenge your brain, force yourself to think and learn about new things – to no longer be set in our ways. Before too long, I wouldn’t be surprised if your memory is better, and you look five years younger!

Until next time…Be Vibrant!