The Power Of Gratitude In The Face Of Tragedy

When I learned of the carnage and senseless brutality of the bombing at the Boston Marathon, I, like millions of others around the world, had a very visceral reaction. The wind was knocked out of me, I felt sick to my stomach, and I felt my heart break with sadness and horror. Not again. Not another terrible act of violence.

Like thousands upon thousands of people, I could hardly wait to get home to hug my daughter and husband tight, and breathe in thanksgiving for another moment with them. And I have spent hours reflecting on how grateful I am to have more time with the ones I love.

The truth is that we have no idea what the future holds. All we have is this moment, and we should realize the value in it. Make it count. In the wake of the tragedy in Boston, I encourage you all to courageously carry on and fight fear and negativity with gratitude. It’s good for your health and for your spirit.

Gratitude fosters optimism, which has been shown to positively influence the immune system. Optimism and other positive emotions are associated with lowered production of the stress hormone cortisol and with reduced risk of chronic disease, including heart disease and high blood pressure.

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that participants who kept weekly gratitude journals exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the coming week compared to those who recorded challenges or neutral life events. These same researchers reported that while people who cultivate gratitude don’t deny or ignore the negative aspects of life, they tended to report positive emotions, greater life satisfaction, increased vitality and lower levels of depression and stress compared to those who did not cultivate gratitude.

An easy way to take action today is to start a gratitude journal – write down what you're grateful for in your life on a weekly or daily basis. We all can find reasons to be grateful, however small they may be: the love of family and friends, a roof over our heads, the beauty and abundance of nature, and of course, our health.

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