NMC Commentary

How important is the simple act of gratitude to our health?

Very. Our busy lives can often be challenging and at times overwhelming. We are likely all aware that that the stress which comes from those pressures can have a direct impact on our health. Mindfulness techniques, healthy foods, and physical activity can all help us reduce and manage that stress. Interestingly, gratitude is another key strategy for better emotional, mental, and physical health. Studies have linked embracing and expressing gratitude with better health, including “fewer signs of heart disease” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

For the month of November, I would like to invite you to join me in RiseVT’s “locally grown gratitude” challenge. On the RiseVT website for Franklin & Grand Isle counties (www.fgi.risevt.org), you will find a gratitude BINGO card that you can use to track your experiences with gratitude during the month of November. When you have completed a BINGO, just submit a photo of your card to the FGI RiseVT Facebook page or their email at [email protected] before November 30. RiseVT will draw three entrants and celebrate them with a $50 donation each to a local organization of their choice!

The inspiration for this challenge came from the RiseVT Worksite Wellness Community Coalition (WWCC – for more information, reach out to Faith DuBois in RiseVT at [email protected] or 524-1217). They had seen a video on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and had heard a presentation from Bob Begley of Martha’s Kitchen on efforts to make Martha’s Kitchen a welcoming place. As part of the resulting discussions on how to create a greater sense of community across our region, the employer group brainstormed small acts of kindness and opportunities to “pay it forward” that bring gratitude to the forefront, improving our culture for all. Jessica Frost of RiseVT, who helps facilitate the WWCC, explains that “regular gratitude practice can make you focus on the all the positive things in your life and surrounding you. It can help to shift your mindset to look for the good, rather than focusing on the negative.”

In my life, I have much to be grateful for – my family, our NMC team, our community partners, the beauty of our community on many levels, my health, and the opportunity to do things I really enjoy, like cycling. I do not take any of these for granted and, like so many of us I imagine, I need to make time to truly appreciate all of these things I am grateful for and share that gratitude with others. I actually spend time with staff on a Mission Moment focused on Gratitude and What is your purpose. Gratitude shared breeds more gratitude.

Embracing gratitude can take many simple forms. In the challenge, you will find opportunities such as: thinking of one thing you are thankful for and sharing it with someone else; smiling at a stranger; volunteering at a local organization; writing a thank you note; and taking a photo of something beautiful in your community. You will find these, and many more ideas, on the RiseVT gratitude BINGO card. The challenge can be completed as an individual or couple or family or in a group such as a worksite or classroom. We hope you will find the challenge to be a fun way to focus more on what you have to be grateful for. Not only are we sure that doing so will bring a smile to your face as you do, we know that research shows it is good for your health as well. Please take a moment and join us in this challenge. Spread gratitude like confetti.

— Jill Berry Bowen, RN, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer