Embracing Gratitude: How to Cultivate a Thankful Heart and Stronger Relationships

As Thanksgiving draws near, our thoughts naturally turn to gratitude – a sentiment that warms the air and fills our days with appreciation. Beyond a seasonal tradition, gratitude becomes a guiding light, offering profound benefits for our well-being. Let’s dive into what being grateful means for us and explore how embracing this transformative emotion can enrich our lives, bolster our health, and strengthen our relationships.

The Science of Gratitude

There are lots of ways to talk about gratitude, but our favorite comes from Dr. Robert Emmons, a renowned researcher in the science of gratitude. He says…

“Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people’s lives.”

Being grateful is not merely an emotion but a dynamic force for positive change. It brings joy, love, and optimism while protecting against destructive impulses, such as envy and resentment. Its impact on our mental and emotional health is profound, making it an invaluable tool in our journey toward overall well-being.

Dr. Emmons breaks it down into two key parts:

Recognize the Good: Make an effort to notice the good stuff in our lives. It’s like actively searching for moments of beauty, kindness, and strength when life throws us challenges. This recognition becomes the backbone for building a positive mindset and a strong spirit.

Acknowledge External Sources: Gratitude is a team sport, recognizing that the good things often come from outside ourselves. It’s the support from friends, unexpected moments of joy, and the connections we share that make our appreciation grow.


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How can we make gratitude a part of our everyday lives?

Mindful Moments: Incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine. Whether through meditation or a mindful walk, these practices can help you appreciate the present moment and foster a sense of gratitude.

Journaling and Getting Specific: Keep a journal to document moments of positivity. Dive into the details of what (and who) you’re grateful for; the more specific, the better. Specificity intensifies feelings of gratitude, creating a lasting impact.

Express How You Feel: Gratitude is a gift meant to be shared. Let those who positively impact your life know through words, gestures, or acts of kindness. This helps strengthen relationships and fosters a sense of community.


It’s more than a feeling

As we stand on the cusp of gratefulness, let’s embrace this positive emotion. Not just as a seasonal sentiment but as a constant companion in our lives. By recognizing the good, acknowledging external sources, and practicing gratitude in meaningful ways, we cultivate a positive foundation for well-being. This season and beyond, let gratitude be your guiding light, reminding us of the richness that comes from a thankful heart.

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Empathy and Compassion: Building a Stronger Support Community

Empathy and compassion are crucial for adolescents and young adults with cancer and their support community. Cancer can be a difficult and trying experience, and it can be easy for misunderstandings and hurt feelings to arise. However, empathy and compassion can help to build understanding and support during this challenging time.


What’s the difference?

Sympathy is defined as “the feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else’s trouble, grief, misfortune, etc.” Being sympathetic is a kind gesture and can create some feeling of support, but empathy is a much better way to connect with someone going through hard times.

Empathy is defined as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions.” In other words, you can share someone else’s feelings. You don’t only hear their words; you feel them.

With sympathy, supporters tend to feel sorry for the person struggling, creating feelings of pity. These feelings of pity or messages like “you poor thing” are unhelpful and can make the person who needs support feel like nobody understands them, leading to feelings of isolation. By swapping out sympathy for empathy, supporters can hear their loved one’s perspective more clearly, leading to more helpful support. Empathy connects people and creates a space for mutual understanding and genuine compassion.



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How empathy and compassion helps AYAs

Empathy and compassion can provide a sense of understanding and validation for adolescents and young adults with cancer. They may feel isolated and alone in their experience, and empathy and compassion can help them to feel heard and understood. Additionally, it can help to build trust and open up lines of communication, which can be especially important during this difficult time.

Empathy and compassion can also be important for the support community of adolescents and young adults with cancer. They may have their own struggles and frustrations and may struggle with feelings of helplessness or anger. Empathy and compassion can help them understand the experience of the young person with cancer and provide a sense of validation for their feelings.

How to have more empathy and compassion

Empathy and compassion are not innate. They can be learned and improved. Here are some tips to help improve both for the patient and the support community:

  • Listen actively: Give your full attention to the conversation and try understanding the other person’s perspective. This can help to build understanding and trust.
  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness can help you to be more present and aware of your own emotions and the emotions of others.
  • Take a step back: Sometimes, it can be helpful to take a step back and try to understand the situation from a different perspective.
  • Show your support: Showing your support can help to validate the other person’s feelings and provide a sense of understanding.
  • Educate yourself: Educating yourself about cancer, its treatments, and the experience of young people with cancer can help you to understand and empathize with their experience.

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