For the last 25 years, I have worked at a nonprofit pediatric clinic. I have seen many changes over the years. One of the most significant changes I have seen is the trend toward treating the whole person, not just the person’s health concerns. Stress, anxiety, grief, and depression have been directly linked to many health conditions. Unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate these things from our lives; there is no magic pill to protect us. The best we can do is develop the tools we need to take care of ourselves and to persevere. One of the most important tools we have is resiliency.
Even though it may seem that some people are born with a naturally resilient nature, it is possible for everyone to develop it. Resiliency is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. How do you recover from difficult times? Many people immerse themselves in hobbies or the arts. Being physically active or creative can provide an outlet for anxiety. But how can we move past our pain or negative thoughts and change our internal narrative?
I believe that practicing gratitude is the best way not only to survive our traumas but to overcome them. When we are in a crisis, we tend to turn inward. We see only the bad, the pain, or the anxiety. Turning our focus to the positive things in our life can help diminish the control that our negative thoughts have on us. Looking beyond ourselves can help us to appreciate that all people feel pain. In fact, there is always someone else out there who has it worse than we do. That is the moment when we can find the positive despite the negative. Practicing gratitude every day can provide the tools we need to become resilient.
I am not saying that being grateful will help heal a broken heart. But I do believe that if we make gratitude a daily practice, it will become a habit. Once we develop a habit of gratitude, we don’t have to look for it when trouble comes. It will just be there. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said that gratitude as an attitude is a game changer, and I believe that is true. Through the daily practice of thankfulness, we can become healthier people, both emotionally and physically. We can become resilient people who can roll with whatever life throws at us.
This reflection is reprinted from the United Thank Offering e-newsletter, March 2021. Reprinted with permission.
Joyce Landers serves as the Vice President of the United Thank Offering Board.