My favorite tool for improved health and happiness is- GRATITUDE! The science of gratitude is exploding and there are studies showing benefits that range from cancer recovery to decreased anxiety and depression to improved sleep and emotional resilience. There is data suggesting that gratitude protects us from cardiovascular disease and lowers our markers of inflammation. However, instead of inundating you with scientific research, I’m going to teach you three easy tools that you can implement today. Performed on a daily basis, these practices will change your life. It's simple.
The first is a daily gratitude journal. What I mean by this is exactly how it sounds - keep a small journal and a pen either at your bedside or where you have your coffee and open it every morning when you first wake up. Write down at least five specific things that you are grateful for every single day. These can be big things like cancer drugs, a new job opportunity or an upcoming vacation or simple things like having clean water and a bed to sleep in. It doesn’t matter what you list as long as you put pen to paper and start your day by focusing on what is actually going right in your life. Within a day or two, you will see that your brain has been primed to notice the good things during the hours to come as well. This is why every Do Cancer kit ships with a special journal - it makes a big difference.
The second of these tools is embracing the phrase “I get to…”. These three words should replace “I have to…” in both our spoken language and our thoughts whenever possible. For me this might look like, “I get to take my kids to soccer, then I get to cook dinner tonight. Tomorrow I get to go to work.” This subtle shift reminds me what a blessing it is to have children, what a privilege it is that they can play sports, and how lucky I am to have a job. I use this phrase to keep me attuned to the gifts in my life, constantly recognizing the overwhelming abundance. "I get to receive life-saving cancer treatment" is a big one.
Lastly, I invite you to begin a practice of appreciation. This is the application of gratitude to our relationships. Choose one or two things that you appreciate about your spouse or loved one every single day and then actually tell them. This is one of the unique interventions that has the power to favorably shift the mindset of both the compliment giver and recipient. In a short time, you will see how this simple action grows and deepens any important connection in your life.
As the adage says, “Where attention goes, energy flows.” Of course, life throws us its (sometimes big) challenges but undoubtedly, we all have things that are going amazingly well. I invite you to start focusing on the good stuff today and every day - even when it's really hard. You will find that choosing to do so will change how you experience the rest of your life.
Colleen Rivers MD is a cancer survivor and founded Seek which provides heath coaching and workshops to inspire simple changes that are transformative and guide you on your journey to restored health, renewed connections and a greater joy of living.