Harnessing gratitude

Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:


Harnessing Gratitude

Though it was close to 20 years ago, I’ll never forget the reaction of one of my patients to losing both of her legs to diabetes.

“I’m 81 years old and I’ve traveled and danced as much as I could. I wasn’t sick a day in my life until this happened. I’m satisfied,” Lila told me earnestly.

I was astonished by her acceptance of such a difficult situation. If it had been me, I was sure I would have railed at the injustice of the world.

Residents like her, however, make it quite clear that it is possible to be grateful and to live fully, despite disability.

Lila came to mind recently when I asked a resident, Daisy, how she was doing three years after a debilitating stroke. Her curt reply: “The same old damn thing — I still can’t walk.”

Creating better mood

A 2015 study in Spirituality in Clinical Practice suggests it might be possible to use the tool of gratitude in order to help residents like Daisy.

The study looked at the impact of gratitude and spiritual well-being on a group of asymptomatic heart failure patients with an average age of 66.

The researchers found that “gratitude and spiritual well-being are related to better mood and sleep, less fatigue, and more self-efficacy.” Those positive effects can reduce the chances that an individual will move from being asymptomatic to symptomatic heart failure, which is “associated with a five-fold increase in mortality risk.”

The researchers point to studies that tried to enhance participants’ sense of gratitude. Gratitude is considered part of “positive psychology,” which focuses on the strengths that allow individuals and communities to thrive.

For the entire article, visit:

Harnessing Gratitude


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