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Gratitude 101: Your Secret Weapon for Feeling Good, Especially During the Holidays

With the holidays right around the corner, emotions are all over the place for many of us. It’s not all jingle bells and cheer; some folks might be dealing with stress, loneliness, or a touch of the holiday blues. And for those battling cancer, the emotional rollercoaster can be even more intense.

Are you ready for some good news? Gratitude can be your secret weapon against this up-and-down destructive cycle. It’s not just some feel-good fluff; it’s like a health elixir that can do wonders for your mood, your well-being, and your overall health.

Curious how? Let’s dive into it. We’ll start by taking a look at the damaging effects of negative emotions, starting with the big one: FEAR.

Fear: The Body’s Drama Queen

We’ve all had that heart-pounding, gut-churning moment. It’s when your body hits the panic button after sensing trouble. Your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure goes through the roof, and you’re breathing like you just finished a marathon. All this happens because your brain’s middleman, the amygdala, shouts, “Emergency alert!”

Throw in some stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, and you’re in full-fledged fight-or-flight mode.

Fear is a lifesaver in emergencies, but when it overstays its welcome and becomes what we call chronic stress, it’s a problem — especially for our friends dealing with cancer. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) spills the beans—mental and emotional distress, including anxiety and depression, is a common sidekick for cancer patients and survivors.

Depression’s Silent Impact

Depression, another potent emotion, frequently accompanies the cancer journey. Statistics from the NCI about the impacts of a cancer diagnosis reveal that a substantial percentage of cancer patients—42% of breast cancer patients and 41% of head and neck cancer patients—experience mental or emotional distress. Moreover, a quarter of cancer survivors grapple with symptoms of depression, with anxiety affecting 45%.

The Gratitude Rescue Mission

So, how does gratitude fit into this emotional rodeo? Well, it’s like the superhero swooping in to save the day. Gratitude, a positive and affirming emotion, isn’t just a nice idea; it’s legit science.

When you consciously focus on what you’re thankful for, your brain dishes out some feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. It’s like a mood boost button, making you feel fulfilled and satisfied. Plus, here’s the cool part—gratitude not only keeps the good vibes flowing but also puts a damper on cortisol, the stress hormone. It’s like telling stress, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

More Than Just “Thanks” at the Dinner Table

Gratitude isn’t just a one-time prayer before digging into Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a health boost for you and everyone around you. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

And guess what? You can totally cultivate this “attitude of gratitude” even if life throws cancer your way. It’s worth the effort it may take. By focusing on the good stuff in life, you set off a chain reaction of healing chemicals, giving your mental and physical well-being a serious upgrade.

If you think that words don’t matter, check out Dr. Masaru Emoto’s work: The Power of Words

So, as the holidays roll in, take time for conscious gratitude—it’s not just a fancy phrase; it’s a game-changer for your health. Gratitude: because feeling good is a gift you give yourself.

Gratitude 101: Your Secret Weapon for Feeling Good, Especially During the Holidays

Related:

Meditation’s Surprising Effect on Cancer
Are Your Thoughts Killing You?

Resources:

Reich RR, Lengacher CA, Alinat CB, Kip KE, Paterson C, Ramesar S, Han HS, Ismail-Khan R, Johnson-Mallard V, Moscoso M, Budhrani-Shani P, Shivers S, Cox CE, Goodman M, Park J. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Post-treatment Breast Cancer Patients: Immediate and Sustained Effects Across Multiple Symptom Clusters. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2017 Jan;53(1):85-95. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2016.08.005. Epub 2016 Oct 5. PMID: 27720794; PMCID: PMC7771358.

Liu H, Gao X, Hou Y. Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction combined with music therapy on pain, anxiety, and sleep quality in patients with osteosarcoma. Braz J Psychiatry. 2019 Nov-Dec;41(6):540-545. doi: 10.1590/1516-4446-2018-0346. PMID: 31116262; PMCID: PMC6899366.

Witek Janusek L, Tell D, Mathews HL. Mindfulness based stress reduction provides psychological benefit and restores immune function of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer: A randomized trial with active control. Brain Behav Immun. 2019 Aug;80:358-373. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2019.04.012. Epub 2019 Apr 3. PMID: 30953776.

Qing Yan, “The role of psychoneuroimmunology in personalized and systems medicine,” Methods Mol Biol (2012);934:3-19. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-62703-071-7_1.

Andrea Danese, MD, MSc, Terrie E. Moffitt, Ph.D., HonaLee Harrington, BA, Barry J. Milne, Ph.D., Guilherme Polanczyk, MD, Ph.D., Carmine M. Pariante, MD, MRCPsych, Ph.D., Richie Poulton, Ph.D., and Avshalom Caspi, Ph.D., “Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adult Risk Factors for Age-Related Disease,” Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med (2009 Dec); 163(12): 1135–1143. DOI: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.214.

David S. Goldstein, “Adrenal Responses to Stress,” Cell Mol Neurobiol (2010); 30(8): 1433–1440. DOI: 10.1007/s10571-010-9606-9.

Maria Cohut, Ph.D., “How emotions may impact tumor growth,” Medical News Today (July 17, 2018). https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322497.

 

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