I hope you and your family are well. I am thinking of you and sending my positive thoughts and prayers. We are missing everyone, and hope to bridge the distance through this electronic connection.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I am trying to approach each day with a grateful heart. Did you know that social science research outlines how giving thanks and practicing gratitude can benefit us? Gratitude can increase our sense of balance and calm, enhance optimism, help us cope with stress, and improve our physical well-being. It is incredible that simple, appreciative thoughts can make a huge impact!
Sometimes, feeling a sense of gratitude is easy, and in more challenging times, like now, we may need to search for this optimistic outlook. However, all of us have something to be thankful for. So, let’s get inspired, and start living life with a grateful heart. This “Touch Points” focuses on the importance of cultivating gratitude, how gratitude has the ability to make us happier and healthier, and a variety of ways to incorporate this practice into our lives. For my friends caring for a loved-one with memory loss, most of the suggestions can be easily adapted. I hope you will find ways to personalize the techniques and make them work for your family. This is not one size fits all, so read the suggestions below and see what resonates. Commit to one or two techniques, and notice how your outlooks feels lighter and brighter!
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” -Oprah Winfrey
1.Ways to Cultivate the Habit of Grateful Thinking–
- Start by paying attention and being mindful of your daily blessings. Be aware of little things each day that you are grateful for. There are simple things that might come to mind, so challenge yourself to find one new appreciation each day. There is nothing too small to be grateful for. For example, I was grateful that we had oatmeal and brown sugar in the house; that is exactly what I wanted to eat!
- Make the practice of gratitude social– Try to think about another person and why you are grateful. What has that person said or done to enrich your life or make it easier? Then, if you are able, share these warm feelings with the person. You might talk about your appreciation during a meal, Facetime call, phone call or a letter. This moment can facilitate a beautiful, loving connection.
- Find gratitude even during the challenging times. I think a pandemic certainly counts as a challenge! Don’t you?! So, even now, try to be aware of what you are grateful for. Daily, I am grateful for snuggles from my tiny, old dog, Maggie. What are you grateful for?
- Keep a daily gratitude journal or list– Get in the habit of expressing your gratitude daily. In the morning when you wake up, or before you go to bed, write a list of five things you are grateful for. Try this with your loved-one. Once you have a few entries, enjoy spending moments reading them again. I guarantee you will smile.
- Say grace after meals.- In Judaism, we say “Birkat Hamazon” to give thanks to G-d for our food and for the nourishment. Let us also give thanks to the people making our meals. We are all blessed to have a full belly. AMEN!
If your belly is full, then find a way to help people that are not as fortunate. Show your gratitude through tzedukah or charity. Many people in Milwaukee are “food insecure” and do not have enough to eat. The Milwaukee Jewish Pantry, is a Jewish response to hunger in our city. Click here to learn more and to donate to this worthy cause. https://www.jccmilwaukee.org/programs/community/jewish-community-pantry/
- Take a gratitude stroll– Go for a walk and notice all the things you are grateful for. It is healthy for us to get out of the house, even for a little while. If you can, bundle up and take a walk, and if it’s too difficult, then sit outside. Use all your senses. Feel the sun on your face, feel the wind in your hair, and hear the leaves rustling. What a glorious experience; savor this moment.
- Try a gratitude breathing exercise– Before we start, think of one or two things you are grateful for and keep them in your mind. Get comfortable in a chair with arms and close your eyes. Put your hand on your heart, and be mindful of the moment. As you breathe in through your nose, think about a moment in your life you are deeply grateful for or something you cherish. Hold it for a few seconds, breathe it in, and feel it. Then breathe out through your mouth. Try this a few times and feel the grace in this moment. (Only do the exercise two times so you don’t feel light-headed.)
“There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy.” (-Ralph H. Blum)
2. Try “Grateful” Brain Health Exercises-
Regular mental fitness can help your cognition. Have fun with these inspirational exercises. Complete by yourself, and then share with a loved-one. Notice how your happiness grows with a grateful perspective.
- List people in your life you are grateful for, and why? Write what you like about them.
- Name your favorite experience this past year, and describe why it was so memorable.
- Describe a favorite smell that always makes you smile. What about a sound, sight, or sensation? For me, my favorite smell is chicken soup. Even though I am vegetarian, I still love the smell of chicken soup. It reminds me of my Yiddishe Grandma Mildred’s giant pot of simmering chicken soup, and family gatherings. It feels like a warm hug, unconditional love and my beautiful, large family. (Picture the movie- My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but everyone is Jewish, eating chicken soup. That’s my family. 😊)
- Describe something weird or random that brings you joy. (This is my favorite question! I can’t wait to hear what you said!)
“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
3. Watch the Jewish Museum Milwaukee’s “Museum Moment”-
In 1790, George Washington wrote a letter to the congregation of Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. In this letter, he indicates that Jews and all members of minority religions will be able to practice freely in the new United States. This Museum Moment explores the history of Washington’s letter and its importance to American Jews. In thinking about gratitude at this time of Thanksgiving, consider the way in which Jewish identity and American identity are connected. Learn more – watch this 26 minute video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XgVSf31HPk
4. Be Safe- Get a COVID-19 Vaccine Today!- In the Spirit of Gratitude, I am SO Grateful for the Covid-19 Vaccine!
The COVID-19 Vaccine and the COVID-19 booster shots are available. I strongly urge you to get a Covid-19 vaccine. Are you and everyone you love vaccinated? If not, please get vaccinated today! Do it for yourself, your family, and your community.
- Click here to find a vaccine near you: https://www.vaccines.gov/ Many locations offer same day and walk-in appointments.
- Who is eligible for a Covid-19 Vaccine booster shot? https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/booster-shot.html
- In-home vaccinations are available! Simply call (414) 286-6800 to schedule. Do you have difficulty leaving your home, live in Milwaukee County, and have trouble accessing the support needed to get the COVID-19 Vaccine? No problem! Call for an appointment.
- Do you have questions or feel hesitant? There are many ways to find the answers you need. Call and speak to an expert or click on the websites below. Have your questions answered and then make an appointment today.
- Click here for more information from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/
- Check out The City of Milwaukee Health Department website: https://city.milwaukee.gov/CovidVax
- Call the State Hotline: 1-844-684-1064
“If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” -Rabbi Harold Kushner
I would love to hear what you enjoyed, and what practices you are incorporating into your life. Have you felt more optimism and light? Gratitude is a powerful tool that allows our hearts to link to others in love and in peace. Thank you for adding beauty and meaning in my world. I am grateful for each of you.
As always, if you have a question about memory loss, our programs, community resources or caregiving- I am here for you, and happy to help. Please do not hesitate to contact me. You can find me here: DRubin-Winkelman@ovation.org
Thinking of you and sending all my positive energy and love,