One Healthy Change: Gratitude

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Alan and Donna St Mary Lake Glacier
When visiting inspiring places on your travels, it’s always nice to stop and take a moment to give thanks for what you have.

Gratitude, thankfulness, altruism, kindness—do you know how good these words are for you? No matter which term we use, practicing the concept behind these words is a powerful force for achieving a healthy life. In our busy world, it’s easy to let thankfulness slip a notch or two in the schedule of what’s important. Since the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday occurs at the end of November, this is the perfect subject for the One Healthy Change a Month series.

Will you join me in November’s challenge for One Healthy Change a Month: Gratitude?

Showing and feeling gratitude ranges from the simple to the complex. It might be a smile and a “thank you,” years of volunteering for a worthy cause or the ultimate heroic sacrifice of saving someone’s life. But no matter which method you choose, it’s good for your health.

I recently read an article at WebMD suggesting that altruism can be the antidote to stress as well as the key to a longer life. And I was especially intrigued by this quote: “It doesn’t come from any dry action — where the act is out of duty in the narrowest sense, like writing a check for a good cause. It comes from working to cultivate a generous quality — from interacting with people. There is the smile, the tone in the voice, the touch on the shoulder. We’re talking about altruistic love.”

As Alan and I cruise across the Atlantic, this quote has truly come to life for us. The crew works so hard to make sure that we have a good experience. Most greet us by name and a sincere “how is your day going?” You should see the smile on their faces when rather than talking about our day we ask them how theirs has been. Eventually, we learn about careers spent working on cruise ships and about their families back home. It’s amazing how the simple act of showing interest in someone begins a connection and increases our own thankfulness.

With this in mind, try these simple ways to make gratitude part of your One Healthy Change a Month.

Showing Gratitude at Home:

  • Write it down. Keep a list of the good that happens in your life. On rough days, read the list as a positive reminder that there are better days to come.
  •  Say thank you to a spouse or family member. It’s so easy to take the people we see on a daily basis for granted. Look for something that you appreciate in them and say thank you.
  •  Pay it forward. Do a good deed for someone that you don’t know. This can be on an individual basis or through a volunteer organization.

Practicing Gratitude on the Road:

  • Travel with a thankful attitude. Missed flights, rude TSA agents, disappointing travel experiences—don’t let the stresses of travel take away your thankfulness. When those experiences happen to me, I focus on how lucky I am to be healthy enough to travel. Okay, sometimes Alan has to remind me; or I might be the one reminding him. But focusing on the positive eventually shifts the mood from bad to good.
  • Volunteer during a trip. The National Park Service offers programs where visitors can volunteer in the parks. Many cruise ships provide volunteer opportunities as a part of excursions. If you’re interested in making a deeper commitment to volunteer travel, you’ll want to read an article that I wrote for the NPR site, Next Avenue: Volunteer Vacations: How To Be Sure You’re Helping .

It’s not too late to join our challenge. Click One Healthy Change a Month to read more.

Do you have tips for practicing gratitude? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email with your comments or questions.

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