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Gratitude for Caregivers

Posted By Linda Roszak Burton, Thursday, April 11, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Gratitude Heals

John Henry Jowett quote says Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic. A vaccine against the invasion of a disgruntled attitude. An antitoxin against the poison of fault-finding and grumbling. A soothing antiseptic in the spirit of thanksgiving.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

When you read the phrase, gratitude for caregivers, what meaning do you apply? Is it a patient expressing gratitude to their caregiver for care and compassion shown to them during a recent health scare or recovery from an illness? Or, do you interpret it as an element of a positive and healthy work culture, where leaders and caregivers express gratitude to each other and their patients—genuinely, frequently, and value-based?

The good news is that it can, and based on research, needs to be interpreted both ways! We would assert that gratitude isn’t limited to any particular individual, profession, setting, or industry. Current research demonstrates that when gratitude is practiced, expressed, and received, the benefits are undeniable, significant, and multifaceted.

The POWER of gratitude:

  • Promotes healing, strengthens our immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness, and increases pain thresholds;
  • Motivates philanthropic giving. Being grateful has been found to make us more charitable and giving of our time, treasure, and talents;
  • Creates resilience by fostering greater mental, emotional, and physical health and well-being, for both the caregiver and patient;
  • Improves employee engagement by recognizing the value and contributions of coworkers;
  • Generates more positive social behaviors, buffering against negativity-bias, bolstering civility, respect, and broadening our attention to positive emotions.

To read more about these benefits go to Discovering the Health and Wellness Benefits of Gratitude

man suffering from burnout

A Remedy for Burnout

A Google search on the subject of burnout yields 114,000,000 results and counting! Job burnout as defined by the Mayo Clinic is a special type of work-related stress - a state of physical or emotional exhaustion (EE), a sense of reduced personal accomplishment (PA), and a loss of personal identity or depersonalization (DP). This widely accepted definition and the prevalence of burnout in healthcare has given us staggering and sometimes shocking statistics about the negative impact on individuals, teams, and organizations. Even more astounding are studies linking burnout to physician suicides, a higher rate of emotional exhaustion in as much as one-third of all US nurses, and the association between burnout and poor patient safety and quality outcomes, including mortality.

In a 2018 article in STAT, comes an even more disturbing reference to burnout…moral injury! First used to describe soldiers’ responses to their actions in war is now linked to “physicians being unable to provide high-quality care and healing in the context of healthcare.”

The Journal of Nursing Management, recently published a scoping review using the terms gratitude and health professionals. This scoping review consisted of synthesizing and thematically analyzing existing evidence regarding gratitude in healthcare relationships with the specific focus on patients and families expressing gratitude to their health professional. Health professionals were defined as physicians, nurses, patient care teams, and other healthcare providers. This broad review of existing knowledge included empirical and non-empirical literature and was not focused on evaluating the quality of research studies.

beautiful stylized black and white sunburst mosaic with the word imagine in the middle of it

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

In this particular study, expressions of gratitude from patients and family members to their health professional indicated a positive impact on caregiver well-being, stress reduction, and a possible reduction in symptoms and consequences of burnout. In addition, this review suggests gratitude from patients and families could contribute to “motivation and retention among health professionals, and when nurtured, is associated with a healthy work environment.”

An article on physician burnout in the Family Practice Management Journal identified practicing gratitude and offering resilience training as potential burnout interventions. Additionally, a mental technique of reframing negative events was recognized as helpful when dealing with burnout. Articles published in the NeuroLeadership Journal suggests reframing or re-contextualizing the way we think about a situation as an approach to minimize a negative emotional impact. Reframing is also defined as a “cognitive reappraisal” of ideas and emotions with more positive alternatives.

Quote from Rick Hanson, PhD, Buddha's Brain that says what flows through your mind sculpts your brain.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Similar to the scoping review in the Journal of Nursing Management, a research article in Frontiers in Psychology looked at the positive effect of patient gratitude and support on nurses’ burnout. Of the findings, when support and gratitude was expressed by patients to nurses, improvements were seen in one or more of the dimensions of burnout: emotional exhaustion (EE); personal accomplishment (PA); and depersonalization (DP).

Another important study highlighting the positive impact of gratitude on organizational wellness is from the International Journal of Workplace Health Management. This study showed that gratitude was found to be a consistent predictor of these outcomes among nurses:

  • Less exhaustion and less cynicism;
  • More proactive behaviors;
  • Higher rating of the health and safety climate;
  • Higher job satisfaction;
  • Fewer absences due to illness.

Additionally, The Greater Good Science Center published an article recognizing several healthcare organizations that have turned to this innovative remedy of gratitude to reduce burnout. Healthcare organizations such as Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente, and Scripps Health have instituted programming to cultivate gratitude as part of their healthy work cultures.

Woman relaxing by a window with eyes closed while sunlight washes over her

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Finally, perhaps the best way to wrap-up these insights and findings comes from research done by the National Research Corporation/NRC Health and Accordant Philanthropy. When asked what influenced their feelings of gratitude during a healthcare experience, thirty percent of participants said gratitude was spurred by the compassion, empathy, or kindness of caregivers. Similarly, when asked what would most likely make them feel grateful to caregivers, forty-one percent of the study participants indicated feeling genuinely cared about as a person.

Findings from these studies and others highlight the “perfect timing” for greater focus and attention to the important role gratitude plays in our healthcare settings.


What one action can you take, personally, to tap into your own gratitude circuitry and that of your coworkers?

What learning opportunities can your organization or department initiate to promote gratitude as a cultural imperative?

Photos courtesy of Unsplash
Linda Roszak BurtonLinda Roszak Burton provides brain-based coaching and training programs to help healthcare organizations, their leaders and teams emerge stronger, more knowledgeable, and engaged for greater success and satisfaction. As a leadership coach, Linda utilizes the latest research and evidence-based practices from positive psychology, gratitude, and neuroscience to help her clients be at their best in todays stressful and overwhelming work environments. In addition, she supports various research initiatives and is currently conducting research on gratitude interventions for creating greater health and well-being for health care employees.

Tags:  caregiver  emotional wellness  gratitude  spiritual wellness 

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March's Lucky Charms: A Practice Of Gratitude

Posted By Sabrina Walasek, Monday, March 25, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Photo courtesy of Cygnus921 [CC BY-SA 3.0]

In honor of March, I decided that rather than searching fields of green for four-leaf clover I would turn inward to identify my own lucky charms. We all know that acknowledging what is good in life is helpful and healthful. Sometimes, though, it’s just hard to muster up the effort to put our full attention on it. This is especially true as we careen through our daily routine, checking off tasks and dealing with the mundane.

To liven up my gratitude practice, I decided to try a new approach and I shared it with my women’s mindfulness circle. I encourage you to give it a try. (This was practiced at the end of the day.)

Opening Statement

Feeling lucky can be a part of any experience. It’s a frame of mind that acknowledges the gift of each moment of each day, no matter the circumstance. It’s a path to feeling comfort, joy, gratitude, or resolve in what is. Tonight we will practice this.


Without explanation, simply state something you feel lucky about. Take whatever comes to mind, without overthinking it. Complete the statement, “I feel lucky that _____.” or “I am lucky to have ______.” Say it out loud. Notice how that makes you feel. (We were in a group, but if you want to do this alone, I still encourage you to say it out loud. It makes it more real.)


We are going to do a ten-minute meditation with a focus. Imagine you are replaying your day as if it were a movie. As you revisit different aspects of the day in your mind’s memory, stop and acknowledge people or things along the way you may have taken for granted, but in observing them from this vantage point, you feel gratitude. Take a moment to silently say, “I’m lucky that ______.”

Remember not to force the feeling of gratitude; simply allow yourself to relive the moments and see what naturally bubbles up and gives you joy or appreciation. If you encounter something that was negative, consider if it might have been a gift. Perhaps there is something you’ve learned from the experience that will help you along your life path.

Whatever comes up, go with it — let it flow through you. If your mind starts to wander, notice and bring it back to the place you left off or go to the breath until you can step back onto the path.

(Set timer for 10 minutes)

After the meditation, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that this exercise worked well for the women in my group. Several of them shared that when they had arrived that evening they were not feeling particularly uplifted; they were experiencing the residuals of a pretty crummy day. Most admitted that they had not noticed a single “good” thing about their day. To their delight, the practice completely changed their outlook. Upon review, they realized many gold nuggets of life that they were taking for granted.

Another takeaway from the meditation was that it has a more profound impact on the rest of the evening. The level of relaxation in the faces and bodies of the attendees was noticeable. The coherence of the group was more solid. The women commented on how much better they felt about their day and their life. It was that simple, a pivot in their point of view.

Illustration of the parts of the brain.
Image courtesy of the National Institute of
Mental Health (NIMH) [Public domain]

The Greater Good Science Center in Berkeley conducted a study to see how gratitude affected people who were undergoing counseling. They had some participants write gratitude letters for three weeks while others documented their negative experiences or did not write at all. The findings, using an fMRI scanner, showed that those who wrote gratitude letters showed more activation in the medial prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for human social cognition and behavior. Even more exciting was that there was still evidence of its effect three months later.

From my experience, the positive mental shift that comes from a gratitude practice does not necessarily require writing one's thoughts or sharing them in with others (though these are both perfectly fine options). All that is required is a few minutes of quiet and a positive lens. This month, we called our lens “lucky.” I can’t help but wonder what our world would be like if everyone could take some time at the end of the day to sit with their family, colleagues, friends, or whomever and notice that their day was one filled with lucky charms.

Sabrina WalasekSabrina Walasek has twenty years of learning and program design expertise that has covered multiple subjects for learners of all ages. Her love of travel and adventure led her to Colombia where she built an English language fluency and literacy program for Colegio Canadiense, a private k-12 school with 1,200 students.


As a veteran meditator, Sabrina spends her free time as a mindfulness practitioner and delves into all things related to mind-body wellness. She has led a women’s mindfulness group for over a year and recently designed 16 social-emotional mindfulness workshops for 250 middle school students in Toronto under her brand HumanKindClub. Her website is www.mindfulspaces.org. 

Tags:  emotional wellness  gratitude  Mindfulness  spiritual wellness 

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I Skipped My Step Aerobics Class Today

Posted By Lisa Medley, Friday, February 8, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Instead of going to class, I went back to bed.

I didn't feel like it.

I wasn't beating up on myself for not going.
I wasn't judging myself for being "lazy."
I wasn't shoulding on myself. 

I usually go to a step aerobics class (yes, it still exists!) on Tuesday mornings. I love it! I get to sweat from every pore of my body, my brain gets to work out too as it is keeping up with the choreography of steps, and I don't have to create anything; I just show up and do what the teacher tells me to do.

This morning however, I checked in with my body and my energy and wasn't feeling it. This kind of class takes at least 75% energy in the tank and I didn't have it. I had worked on a deadline driven project over the weekend — not my norm, and it happens sometimes — with a headache that comes on from time to time (ladies, you know what I mean), and was needing to slap on a quasi-sunny "good morning!" to my son as I shuffle around getting him off to the bus stop in 17 degree weather.

Instead of going to class, I went back to bed. I asked my body what it FELT like doing and that was the reply. I have been practicing being kind to my body long enough that I can trust that when I listen to its needs and respond, I feel better. I don't have to "figure it out" or think my way though feeling better; I FEEL my way to feeling better. 

My body tells me the truth of my internal experience. Without should’s, shame, or pressure to meet impossible expectations from the outside world.

Your body does too. Imagine the freedom of tuning into your internal state and having your inner voice be enough. Embodying the truth that YOU ARE ENOUGH.

How are you FEELING in this very moment? What does your body need to feel good, even better? Even an incremental step, an eye dropper amount of action, a micro movement

Without the need to please anybody except yourself.
Without the guilt of so-called "selfish."
Without the external have to's.

With full on permission.
For your body.
For your life.
For your best self.

Let me know how it goes!

Liberate Your Light,
Lisa Medley

Lisa MedleyLisa Medley, MA serves as a Wellbeing and Body Intelligence Expert. She supports her clients to cultivate positive relationships with their body for sustainable inside-out wellbeing. Lisa believes in reintegrating the body and its wisdom to support the evolution of our divine human potential. Learn more at SoulisticArts.com. Check out her new Instagram page as well: @soulisticarts.

Tags:  boundaries  emotional agility  emotional intelligence  emotional wellness  Lisa Medley  resilience  spiritual wellness 

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