The One Thing You Need in Order to Always Smile at Your Mom (or Dad or MIL)

A caregiver’s super power

Why am I talking about super powers here? Because being a family caregiver is hard. You not only need healthy habits— you deserve them—in order to show up as the best version of yourself.

A key study

Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis, researcher, author and perhaps the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, argues that gratitude has two key components: 

  1. It’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.
  2. We recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.

Dr. Emmons performed a study where all the participants were asked to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. The second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them. The third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). 

After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on things that irritated or disappointed them.

Claim gratitude as your super power

I’m thrilled that my 80-year-old mother-in-law agreed to join me in a joint gratitude list this year! (It’s just a google doc. that we can both access.) My secret goal is to get to a list of 1,000 “gratitudes” before the end of the year, but I’m holding that loosely since I don’t want to weigh down the activity with rules. 

Read Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts for beautiful writing and more inspiration about WHAT to be thankful for.

Have you ever made a point of practicing gratitude?

If not, maybe this is your nudge. There are many journals and apps which provide some structure. Some just have a spot for the date and then a few lines while others have inspiring prompts and adjectives boxes to check which may be helpful if self-awareness is difficult for you. 

I’ll tell you who is grateful for you. Your senior. Even if they cannot or will not express it, they are grateful for your kind-hearted, imperfect care in their season of waning.

So what are you grateful for today and . . . will you join me in focusing on gratitude this year?

Grateful for you,