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Williston - Gratitude

It’s safe to say we’re all ready to put 2020 and the pandemic in our rearview. This unprecedented year has called for plenty of courage, resilience and coming together. Despite or maybe because of the uncertain days we’re living, it’s important to pause this holiday season to recognize all the things for which we are thankful.

"This year has truly taught us what is important in life – each other. I’m incredibly thankful for my loved ones and friends who make my life rich, my colleagues who’ve shown incredible camaraderie and  strength and especially the community members who’ve found so many ways to lift our spirits,” Dan Bjerknes, CHI St. Alexius Health president.

While the holiday gatherings we all look forward to might be different this year, there’s still something we can feast on: thankfulness. It’s a simple act we can and should do, even on our most difficult day. In fact, after the September 11 terrorist attacks, gratitude was found to be a major contributor to resilience, according to a 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“It can be hard at times on the frontlines, but our mission calls us to do what we do. That people in the community have taken the time to bring in meals, send a note of encouragement or join in the parade drive-by - those thoughtful gestures are deeply, deeply appreciated. In the thick of a shift, those moments make us smile,” said Rheanda Axtman, CHI St. Alexius Health respiratory therapist.

Studies have even linked gratitude to improved physical health. A thankful attitude can reduce our aches and pains, and make us more likely to take care of ourselves by exercising and having regular checkups. Simply practicing gratitude - writing down three things you’re grateful for each night, for example - can help you sleep better.

“One of the amazing things I’ve witnessed as a physician is the way gratitude can impact a person’s overall wellbeing. And you don’t have to be the most fortunate person in the world to practice it. There’s something to be grateful for, even on our hardest days,” said Dr. Robert Kemp, CHI St. Alexius Health. “When gratitude is shared, it becomes really powerful. I see it in the way that people have reached out to health care workers with signs or even just a kind word at the grocery store. I hope the community knows how much what we appreciate everything they’ve done to support us.”

The psychological boost is very real, according to gratitude researcher Robert A. Emmons, PhD. His studies have shown that practicing gratitude increases happiness and decreases depression while reducing negative emotions like regret.

“At times, it’s been easy to feel discouraged. But we are most hopeful when we are helping others. The community has really shown us many acts of kindness this year, which lifted our spirits in ways that are hard to measure – it has simply kept us going,” said Janna Lutz, CHI St. Alexius Health foundation director.

 “We’re going to need each other in the coming days. We are so grateful that people are moved to show their appreciation, even when they may be struggling themselves, says so much about the human spirit and what we’re capable of,” said Dan Bjerknes.