Office Visit: Practice Gratitude This Holiday Season

Office Visit: Practice Gratitude This Holiday Season

Lee esto en EspañolBy Joseph R. Cunningham, M.D.

As we near the end of another year, it’s a good time to slow down and reflect on what you’re thankful for. Personally, 2020 has brought perspective about what’s most important in my life and it has carried me through the tough times.

As we approach the peak of flu season during a global pandemic, it’s certainly not the time to let your guard down. Remember the three Ws: wash your hands, watch your physical distance, and wear your mask when around others. Doing these three things will go a long way in keeping you healthy this winter.

While you may be tuned into taking care of your physical health, don’t neglect your mental health. Over the past few months, many have struggled with the negative effects of stress, social isolation, and lifestyle changes. It’s important to prioritize self-care and one way to accomplish that is by practicing gratitude.

A gratitude exercise comes in many forms, but generally, it amounts to conscious reflection on what you appreciate in your life. This could be anything from your health, to additional time spent with your family, to job security. Journaling is one of the easiest and most popular ways to practice gratitude. Families can start a tradition of incorporating a gratitude exercise at the dinner table each night.

According to the American Heart Association, an increased focus on gratitude can improve immune function, which is crucial in fighting illness. Gratitude can also significantly reduce the risk for mental illnesses like depression, anxiety and substance abuse, as reported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

This time of year can be difficult enough with the stress of the holiday season, and adding in an election year and COVID-19 could take more of a toll than normal. A focus on positive perspective and emotions can help with coping and stress management, per the National Institutes of Health.

I am finding a lot of comfort in counting my blessings this year. Wishing you and yours a healthy and safe holiday season.

Dr. Joseph R. CunninghamJoseph R. Cunningham, M.D. is the president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company.

(For more Office Visit columns by Dr. Cunningham, visit The Journal Record.) 

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