How Gratitude Can Keep You Healthy

August 21, 2009 | By | Comments (0)

Something happened today that had me saying "Thank You, Thank You!!" over and over, to another person. I found myself with a dead battery, double-parked on the streets of Manhattan. (I'd left some lights on and run down the battery.) Obviously, this was NOT a good situation. Add to that equation the fact that it was about 90 degrees with 100% humidity, that I'm almost eight-and-a-half-months-pregnant, and that it was a borrowed car (read: I don't have a AAA membership or a mechanic on speed-dial), and you have one frantic person.

Therefore, I'm so grateful to the gentleman who I asked to give me a jump. He went so above-and-beyond what was necessary. At first, the jump didn't work. Instead of washing his hands of the situation and driving away, he parked his car and together we poked around until we figured out a light that was on and tried to jump the car again. Eureka: the car started! The whole process was 20-30 minutes and he easily could have left after the first five and that first failed jump. But he didn't.

I drove away from the encounter feeling elated—because I'd averted a huge hassle and potential expense, yes—and also because of the nature of the feeling of gratitude that washed over me.

And it turns out, being grateful can actually help your health. According this article, studies have found it to boost immunity, help squelch aches and pains from exercise, and even help you relax. What's more, it can improve your marriage and (this part isn't all that surprising, given my experience) make YOU a more helpful person to others.

To be honest, I've never been one of those people to make a daily list (mental or otherwise) of their "gratefuls" (often like a bedtime ritual akin to saying prayers) but this whole thing just chips away at that level of cynicism and reminds me to do it, even if it's not daily—whether it's taking note of the kindness of strangers and the simple brilliance of jumper cables, the cool air conditioning that's on full blast in my house, or any other number of small or large things that happen every day.

Oh, and and here's hoping that when I return to the car (re-parked on the streets of NYC after a 20-minute battery-recharging drive) that the battery starts up healthy and sound!

But back to the kind man who helped me…Before we parted, I took down his name and address. He works around the corner from my apartment and I want to give him something to thank him. What would you do? Money? Something more creative? A gift card? A handwritten note? I don't want to just walk away with a mere thanks—but am wondering what other people might do in this situation? Any ideas?