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Commentary

Gratitude and Overall Well-Being During Uncertain Times


November 25, 2020

By Yvette C. Terrie, BS Pharm, RPh, Consultant Pharmacist

As I write this commentary, I am listening to a song called, “Better Days,” by the talented music group One Republic. The encouraging and powerful message in this song has been a source of inspiration and hope for many individuals including my family during the ongoing pandemic. In some ways, music is medicine for the soul and human spirit. We can probably all agree that 2020 has been an interesting, challenging and stressful year for everyone as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted and transformed life as we all knew it. Across the country this year, Thanksgiving will be different for many restrictions vary from place to place due to the pandemic. In spite of the challenges and stress, there is still a lot to be thankful for including the little things that we all often take for granted to the everyday necessities that are essential for life. While stressful at times, this has been an opportunity to focus on the treasures that really matter in life like our health and our loved ones. 

Results from a poll conducted in late October 2020, involving 1700 of our nation’s worker’s revealed that more than 70 % are thankful for their health. And the majority (94%) said they were encouraged by gratitude from managers. Other major grateful findings were:1

  • More than one third of workers are thankful for having a job (35%) right now and a quarter of workers (25%) thankful to work remotely.
  • The vast majority of workers believe both that expressing gratitude at work helps alleviate stress and anxiety (97%) and receiving gratitude motivates their daily work (94%).
  • The majority of workers (91%) agree that they express gratitude at their workplace, though unfortunately under half (46%) of workers do not feel that they are recognized for their contributions at work.1

As health care providers, we can strive to be beacons of hope and encouragement for patients and also find joy in caring for patients and providing them with quality health care. Clinical studies have established that one’s attitude can influence clinical outcomes in many cases.

Examples of Clinical Research Exploring Gratitude and Health

  • Research has clearly demonstrated that psychological stress affects clinically significant immune system outcomes, including inflammatory processes, wound healing, and responses to infectious agents and other immune challenges (e.g., vaccinations, autoimmunity, cancer).2
  • Research has also revealed that not only are physical, mental, and social well-beings integral components for complete health, but they are also interconnected.3
  • A recent publication in Psychology Today noted that the practice of gratitude is not only vital for making individuals feel better psychologically during the pandemic, but it can also enhance one’s physical health in response to respiratory infections and overall health particularly in older adults who are at greater risk for COVID-19 and its related complications.4
  • Various clinical studies have explored the correlation between gratitude and wellbeing.  In another recent publication by Dr M Fishman, he noted that, “During moments of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, a grateful perspective is critical to sustain our positive attitude—to energize, to heal, and to bring hope.5

While this relentless virus has affected everyone to varying degrees physically, psychologically, and/or economically, the promising news is that a vaccine is on the horizon and every day health care providers are learning how to better manage symptoms with available pharmacotherapies. We must also remember that the human spirit is more resilient than any virus and when we work together, great things can happen, and we can overcome even the greatest of obstacles. This year, we should all be thankful for the dedication of essential workers who keep us safe, healthy and equipped with essential supplies such as first responders, health care workers, those in the service industry such as in groceries and restaurants, teachers (teaching in person and virtually), school transportation workers who get students safely to school, environmental service workers who keep stores, business and schools clean, those who work in delivery and repair industries and the list goes on. To all of you, I say, “THANK YOU!”

Yes, Thanksgiving may be different this year, but in spite of it all, choosing to be thankful is important because it provides us with an opportunity to focus on what really matters in life.  Many lives have been lost during the pandemic and my prayers go out to all those who have lost loved ones. In my life time, I have lost many loved ones and the holidays are always bittersweet because of the voids of those loved ones. While I miss them dearly, I choose to be thankful that God allowed them to be in my life at all and I cherish the memories of them each day. I hope that this Thanksgiving and every day, we reflect on the blessings of the people in our lives. I am thankful for my faith, my family, my friends who are like family, my colleagues, and for all the people in my life.

The American author and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar once said, “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” 6 If we try to make a practice of focusing on the blessings in life, we may actually find ourselves appreciating those blessings a little more each day and as a result we may enrich the lives of others.

References

  1. Robinson B. A Pandemic Thanksgivings: Gratitude for What We Do Have. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryanrobinson/2020/11/21/a-pandemic-thanksgiving-gratitude-for-what-we-do-have/?sh=6f0587c772db  Published November 21, 2020. Accessed November 25, 2020.
  2. Seiler A., Fagundes C.P., Christian L.M. (2020) The Impact of Everyday Stressors on the Immune System and Health. In: Choukèr A. (eds) Stress Challenges and Immunity in Space. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-16996-1_6.
  3. Park N, Peterson C, Szvarca D, Vander Molen RJ, Kim ES, Collon K. Positive Psychology and Physical Health: Research and Applications. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2014;10(3):200-206. Published 2014 Sep 26. doi:10.1177/1559827614550277.
  4. Alti Z. Gratitude in a Time of Pandemic. Psychology Today website. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mental-hygienist/202003/gratitude-in-time-pandemic  Published March 25,2020. Accessed November 24, 2020.
  5. Fishman MDC. The Silver Linings Journal: Gratitude During a Pandemic. J Radiol Nurs. 2020;39(3):149-150. doi:10.1016/j.jradnu.2020.05.005.
  6. Brainy Quote website. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/zig_ziglar_617744

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