#181 Gratitude

Gratitude is the feeling of appreciation for something. It emerges naturally when we are glad for something we have received. It implies acceptance.

If the only prayer you ever say
in your entire life is thank you,
it will be enough.
Meister Eckhart

As we express our gratitude,
we must never forget that
the highest appreciation is not to utter words,
but to live by them.
John F. Kennedy

Gratitude has many benefits:

  • Gratitude improves physical health.
  • Gratitude improves psychological health.
  • Gratitude strengthens relationships.
  • Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
  • Grateful people sleep better.
  • Gratitude improves self-esteem.

Gratitude cannot be forced; it can be invited. By turning our attention to what we appreciate, we open ourselves to gratitude.  A regular gratitude practice strengthens this natural part of ourselves. Some people take a moment daily to be grateful, either first thing in the morning or just as going to bed. Of course, in this day of everything digital, you can find gratitude apps full of prompts, or put a reminder in your phone. For those analog-oriented, a notebook by the bed to jot down something each day might fit better. Some people access their focus on gratitude with daily prayer.

Take a moment to gather gratitude around how far you have come as a nutrition counselor. Who and what have contributed to your current competence? Who have been your most useful teachers? Who do you model yourself after in your most successful moments? Send them thoughts of appreciation (or even a note or email).  Was there a key theory, concept, or skill that propelled you forward? One of mine is Motivational Interviewing. When I discovered it more than 20 years ago, I could see its power and value, and I felt as if I had come home. I have been deeply grateful ever since. Recently, I asked you to share what about MI you were grateful for. Here is some of what you sent.

  • I am thankful to you, MI, for decreasing my stress by allowing my clients to do the work that I cannot do for them.
  • I thank MI for opening my ears to listen and have better connection with not only the clients I serve but also friends and family.
  • Thank you, MI, for teaching me that listening is more important than talking.
  • Thank you, MI, for helping me to ask better questions so that I get more insightful answers that help me to know and better understand my patients.
  • Thank you for all the Ah-ha moments — when previously insurmountable barriers have been scaled down to doable size. Change can happen, and confidence increases.
  • MI has been incredibly helpful when I need to “buy time,” to think through what the client has said, before responding. When I reflect, the client usually helps move the conversation forward.
  • Thank you, MI, for helping to remind people that the wisdom and power to change already exists inside of them.
  • Thank you, MI, for slowly helping to change the perception of the RD role ­­– we don’t want to be the food police, we want to work with you!
  • It’s wonderful to be “free” of advising families what to do, to work with them to make changes they think possible to reach their goals.
  • MI has allowed me the space and place to help facilitate the process of change from the inside out! I am grateful for how it has encouraged me to become a partner with my clients, accept them wholeheartedly, and take the pressure off me from having to always know what to do.

Positive change is more likely when gratitude is present. We support transformation when we stimulate gratefulness in our clients. Clients often focus on the negatives about food; they call it bad, or it feels dangerous at times. We can gently guide them to focus on the positives by inviting gratitude. Most people can access some gratitude for the availability and variability of food. We can point out the satisfaction it brings over and over throughout our lives. We can offer this perspective for their bodies as well. Our culture supports the opposite: the highly critical approach focused on image. We can support a focus on the positive and on function instead. This is a long, winding journey that has steps forward and backward. Every bit of appreciation that is practiced adds to the well of gratitude.

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