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November 26, 2021

Guest Column | Better Health and Less Stress With Gratitude

Did you know that gratitude is often a forgotten factor in the science of well-being? Studies have shown that grateful people experience less depression and stress, lower blood pressure, more energy and greater optimism.

Some cycles, such as the cycle of violence, need to be broken. However, gratitude is a cycle that, when supported, has a profoundly positive impact on us all.

Gratitude also supports creativity. As Deepak Chopara once said: “Gratitude opens the door to … the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe.”

We all know the basic formula for greater physical health — eat more nutritious food and exercise more. The same can be said for greater happiness. While the entire mental health field is hugely complex, recent research has clearly shown that cultivating gratitude has profoundly positive effects on psyche.

The study revealed that something as simple as writing down three things you’re grateful for every day for three weeks significantly increases your level of optimism — and holds for the next six months!

For the study, a team of researchers from Indiana University recruited 43 subjects suffering from anxiety or depression. Half of this group were assigned a simple gratitude exercise (writing letters of thanks to important people in their lives). Three months later all the subjects underwent brain scans. Those who practiced the most gratitude revealed a particular pattern of activity in their brains.

What’s more, the participants who’d completed the gratitude task months earlier not only reported feeling more gratefulness two weeks after the task than members of the control group. Months later they still showed significant gratitude-related brain activity. The researchers described these “profound” and “long-lasting” neural effects as significant.

In short, practicing gratitude seems to kick off a healthful, self-perpetuating cycle in our brains. So, as we gather for Thanksgiving as families and communities, may we all count our blessings one by one, because it makes it easier to notice them and count them later.

Personally, I give thanks for many things in my own life, but I thought I’d let you know some of what we’re thankful for within Mee Memorial Healthcare System.

We are grateful for our wonderful rural community we serve, and the spirit and resilience of the people who call South County home. There are unique challenges to living in rural areas, but so many more blessings. We count those blessings every day.

We are proud to serve this vibrant community, even during the most difficult of times. It’s been a rough few years to be sure, but our entire Mee Memorial team has faced those challenges with dedication and grace. Once again it revealed great character and commitment within every single member of a truly extraordinary group of people.

It’s not an easy task to manage both the safety of our employees and the wellbeing of our valued community. But we continue to do it together, and it’s reassuring to know that we can count on each other regardless of the circumstances.

I am so proud to work with such an amazing team of healthcare professionals who share a wide-based culture of values and principles. Their talent and teamwork play an integral role in improving the vital services we provide to our community while positively affecting patients and their outcomes.

Today, I personally thank them for their time, energy and focus they invest every day.

At Mee Memorial Healthcare System, we all stand together and proud around our quest to provide “healthcare with heart.” Thank you for allowing us to serve you, and for making us ever mindful of our purpose.

As we gather with our families and friends — perhaps some of us for the first time in quite some time — may we give thanks for that privilege, and what it took to get there. From all of us at Mee Memorial, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving — and good health through gratitude.

Rena Salamacha
CEO, Mee Memorial Healthcare System

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