Wanting greater focus & wellbeing? Why not welcome in gratitude?!
Maintaining a calm focus in the busy and somewhat chaotic world in which we live can be a challenge for patients diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Often we see that increasing anxiety results in greater difficulties with memory and vice versa. Have you ever noticed that the more frustrated you feel the less likely you are to remember something? A great way to work around this is to practice gratitude.
Gratitude increases feelings of wellbeing and calm while decreasing stress levels. Decreased stress levels relates to improved ability to focus, and yes, to remember.
Gratitude journaling is a fantastic way to develop a regular practice of appreciating things you are grateful for, and as the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. The act of writing something helps to retrain our brain towards that of thankfulness more than just creating a mental gratitude list. Specifically, when we use multiple avenues such as thinking, writing and sharing, we have the advantage of increasing the speed at which we train our brain towards appreciation.
Some helpful tips when starting:
- A simple notebook will do just fine. There is no need to purchase an expensive journal or need to have an artistic flare. If you are a graduate of the Mayo Clinic HABIT Healthy Action to Benefit Independence & Thinking ® program you could use the Notes section of your memory book for this exercise as well.
- Begin by writing a list each evening of 5 items for which you are grateful. Evening or day’s end works nicely so that events of the day can be included.
- To help remember, consider setting an alarm reminder on your phone or schedule it on the calendar or the “to do” list.
- Remember, being grateful for the simple everyday things can be the foundation of the practice. The entries do not need to be deep or life-altering…so don’t wait to hit the lottery before feeling grateful! Sometimes I’m grateful for simple things like coffee or sunshine!
- Take your time. You may surprise yourself with your entries.
- Focus more often upon people rather than things. It is great to be thankful for your home or the latest gadget; however, the satisfaction from relationships likely brings forth greater joy.
- Commit to at least 3 weeks to try out your gratitude journal. It usually takes about a minimum of 3 weeks to make something a habit.
- If starting is a challenge consider simple entries such as:
- I am grateful for the warm sunshine today.
- I am grateful for this amazing cup of coffee.
- I am grateful for this breath.
- I am grateful for the nice conversation with my daughter this morning.
Writers block? Consider these topic choices:
- Describe a person in your life for which you are grateful and why.
- List one person you find challenging to get along with and describe their best quality.
- Which of the 5 senses do you appreciate most?
- What aspects of nature are your favorite, describe in detail.
- What part of today was your favorite?
- Describe something new you learned recently for which you are grateful.
- What is the most recent situation where you found yourself joyfully laughing?
- Write about a favorite meal & with whom you shared it. Yes, pets count too!
Beginning the day with a gratitude practice is a wonderful way to set a tone for the day. On the other hand, ending a day with journaling is an excellent way to reflect upon all of the wonderful things that came your way and reframe challenging situations. Either way, practicing gratitude journaling will train the brain to look for the good around you. And, focusing on gratitude breeds yet more gratitude.