Living and growing: Gratefulness good for your health?

Cultivating personal happiness. This may sound like a rather selfish pursuit, but I believe it is essential to living life a good life and to being the sort of person who is able to have a positive impact on family, friends, community and the larger world. We know that we can’t fill a pitcher from an empty well and by the same token we can’t foster happiness in our families and communities if we are not happy ourselves. Happiness is contagious. It has been said that the greatest gift we can give our children is the gift of our own happiness. I would like to take that one step further and say that our own happiness is the greatest gift we can give to the world. Furthermore, happiness helps to offset much of the negativity and stress found in life. Recognizing happiness in our life and learning what brings us joy is vital to being satisfied and content. A joyful life is more fulfilling and allows us to be more resilient to the stressful aspects of life.

What makes us happy? Contrary to what some might think, research has shown that affluence does not increase happiness. Money is not the answer. But there is one simple thing that is guaranteed to increase happiness. Gratitude. A simple word, a profound concept whose practice has the potential to change your life.

In 2005, inspired by the book Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, I began keeping a gratitude journal. Each morning I sit quietly and reflect upon the previous day and write down five things for which I am grateful. It is a lovely start to the day – reflective, appreciative, focused on the positive. The daily reminder that my life is good and that I do have much for which to be grateful is important to me and has changed the way I think. Looking for the good and the positive has changed from a daily practice into an ingrained way of thinking. Always mindful of those ordinary miracles to include in my journal, I find myself more aware, more present, more willing to find the good and the positive. A change in the way we think can change our life. The practice of writing my daily gratitudes has made me a more positive person. I still have the occasional bad day, get into a funk, and have my share of troubles and worries. The practice of keeping a gratitude journal and cultivating a spirit of gratefulness helps me cope and helps me keep things in perspective.

The University of California’s Greater Good Science Center reports on research that finds that people who practice gratitude consistently report: “a stronger immune system and lower blood pressure, high levels of positive emotions, more joy, optimism and happiness, acting with more compassion and generosity and feeling less lonely and isolated.”

I now have 10 completed journals and am about to use up the last pages in my 11th journal. At five per day that’s about 23,725 things for which I have been grateful! Sometimes I look through my journals and find that certain themes emerge. I am consistently grateful for family, friends, health, the beauty of the natural world, opportunities for personal growth and learning but I am also grateful for the smell of a fresh box of crayons, the sound of birds wings moving through still air, the farmers who grow the carrots I eat, the laughter of my grandchildren, the creative spirit, comfortable shoes, good books, clocks, healthy teeth, paper, fresh coffee in the early morning, vacuum cleaners, driftwood, forgiveness, laughter, the smell of fresh mown grass, raspberries… At certain times of the year, I write a gratitude for the lives and memories of my loved ones whose earthly time has passed.

The practice of keeping a daily gratitude journal has changed my life. I encourage you to try it for yourself. You may find yourself a happier person for the effort. I did.

• Annette Coyle is a member of the Juneau Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.


Mon, 02/27/2017 - 08:39

Communications scholarship open

Alaska Professional Communicators are offering two $1,000 scholarships for students planning a career in communications and majoring in any phase of public communications, including public relations, advertising, radio-television, video and print.

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 08:39

Thank you from Big Brothers Big Sisters

Thanks to the City and Borough of Juneau tax revenue and the CBJ Activities Grant, five big and little matches in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program enjoyed an afternoon of free skating at the Treadwell Ice Arena!

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 08:38

Thank you from the American Red Cross of Alaska

On Feb. 17, 2017 we celebrated our 100-year anniversary as the American Red Cross of Alaska. It was very important to us to kick-off the year in Juneau as the original Red Cross of Alaska Charter was in Juneau. We are so happy we did! We have so many people to thank for making the evening not only fun, but heart-warming as well. We first have to thank the volunteers that worked so hard. Thank you to Buddy Custard, board member extraordinaire, for all of your guidance, humor, and hard work. Thank you Teresa Maria Abella for asking Senator Egan to be our Honorary Chair, for plastering the town with posters, for your fundraising efforts, your excitement, your photography, and just in general for being such a blessing to the Red Cross team. Senator Egan and Jesse Keihl, what can we say? You were amazing and helpful and patient. I will miss our meetings and the laughter that always ensued. We would be very remiss if we did not thank Governor Walker for giving us your time and for sharing your Red Cross story. Your commitment and support are deeply appreciated and we were touched beyond measure by your decision to attend and speak at our celebration. Lt. Governor Mallott and Mrs. Mallott, thank you for attending and supporting our mission. You bring such a sense of calm and grace wherever you go, we are humbled that you shared that with us. Last, but most definitely not least, we must thank all of our volunteers. The American Red Cross is a volunteer-run organization with only 14 staff for the entire state of Alaska. We could not help the hundreds of Alaskans that we do without volunteers. Our volunteers are the ones that get up at 2 a.m. when we receive a call about a house fire. They leave their homes and families to help others if there is a large disaster either in Alaska or in some other part of the country. I have said it many times, and will continue to say it: Red Cross volunteers are the best in the world. They are selfless, kind, generous people who only want to help. For this celebration there are a few in particular we need to thank: Karen Petersen, Peter Chaille, June Johnson, Joyce Levine, Michelle Brown, Carolyn and Dan Garcia, Chip Wagoner, Rebecca Trude, Rick Janelle, Patricia and Kyle Lamson, Bob Bassett, and T Iputi! Thank you Juneau and Southeast Alaska for supporting the American Red Cross of Alaska’s first 100 years; we look forward to the next 100!

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 08:38

Planetarium presents ‘Aurora’

The Marie Drake Planetarium will present “Aurora” at 6:30 p.m. Monday, followed by “The Sky Tonight” on the Spitz projector. The event is free and for all ages.

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