Why Choose Stress When You Can Choose Gratitude Instead?

Louis Armstrong had it right along: Life can be sweet – and less stressful – on the sunny side of the street.

Tired of feeling stressed? Several medical studies have found that a sense of gratitude can alleviate mild depression and reduce stress.

According to a 2014 study, some people are born a variation of a gene (CD38) that increases their tendency to experience more meaningful and important relationships. These feelings of contentment and satisfaction naturally counter stress.

For the rest of us, it’s easier than you think to choose gratitude over stress. “Other-praising,” which is doing or saying something kind to another person, has been proven to be reciprocal.

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So how can you put this knowledge into practice? One way is to incorporate meaningful praise into your conversations. Pointing out what someone is good at or how they have made an impact on an individual or situation is a great place to start. Simple expressions of gratitude can be life-changing and enrich your interactions.

Consider keeping a gratitude journal. Reminding yourself about all of the great things going on in your life can positively impact your mood, your relationships and boost overall morale in yourself and the company you keep.

“Review what you are grateful for,” said Carolyn Kaloostian, MD, MPH, clinical assistant professor of family medicine at Keck School of Medicine and a primary care physician from USC Family Medicine at Keck Medicine of USC. “It doesn’t matter if you do it in the morning, at lunch or in the evening. All that matters is you are specific when you do it – and that you do it once a day. This will help you set your attitude towards a state of abundance and attract more happiness into your life.”

A great way to get ahead of your stress is identifying the situations in your everyday life that make you tense and anxious. When you know what is at the root of your negative emotions you can create workarounds to cope or avoid them. If long lines in the grocery store annoy you make a conscious effort to do your shopping early in the morning or late at night. Small tweaks that prioritize your own needs will help you to develop a harmonious and grateful outlook.

Keck Medicine of USC physicians recommend implementing lifestyle changes to manage stress. Though these may seem like common sense, but many people let their busy schedules get in the way of these very important things:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Finding enjoyable hobbies and pastimes
  • Connecting with loved ones in ways that strengthen relationships
  • Learning to set limits so that you don’t overcommit yourself

Even something as routine as exercising 30 minutes three times a week has been shown to create the same boost in happiness and self-esteem.

Though easier said than done, it is also important to recognize, accept and downplay the things you can’t change. They may be no way to avoid congested traffic, but playing classical music might make the drive more relaxing.

It has been proven that grateful people intuitively take better care of themselves and practice positive health behaviors. Keeping an optimistic outlook, feeling good about life, and having solid social connections boosts their ability to bounce back after stressful situations.

If your stress is getting to a level you are unable to handle and nothing else is working, reach out to your primary care physician for help. If you are local to Southern California and are in search of a primary care physician, call (800)USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

By Heidi Tyline King