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Prairie Doc

Prairie Doc: Practicing gratitude

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Kelly Evans-Hullinger

Kelly Evans-Hullinger

I love Thanksgiving. I love preparing the food all day and enjoying it while sitting around a table with some of the people I love most. And there is one holiday tradition that I have grown to adore. As we sit down to eat, we share one thing we feel grateful for this year.

Practicing gratitude has been shown to improve aspects of mental health and our sense of well-being, and it isn’t hard to understand why. Saying or thinking “I am grateful for…” feels really good and doing so regularly can help shape our outlook on the world and our place in it. I know this, and still, I fail to follow through with regularly practicing gratitude like some experts recommend.

There is no time like the present, right? Let’s try it. Here are some things this Prairie Doc is feeling particularly thankful for this year:

I am thankful for my health, thankful to be alive. As I grow older, and as I continue to walk with my patients as they encounter disease and sometimes death, the simple wonder of being alive and feeling well has never felt so clear. None of us will avert death but feeling gratitude for life does make each day a little sweeter.

I am grateful for my family and friends who have sustained me through difficult times and shared in my joy. I am on the receiving end of hugs, snuggles, and the hilarious and warm actions of my children, who give me laughter and hope every day.

I am incredibly grateful to be a physician. I feel fortunate to have a profession that gives me meaning and connects me to people and my community. I am indebted to my colleagues and mentors, including my Prairie Doc cohorts and the original Prairie Doc, Rick Holm, who generously shared so much with me about being a physician.

There. That felt good. I hope you’ll try it too, around the Thanksgiving table, privately in a journal, or however it works for you. Let’s make a habit of practicing gratitude.

Kelly Evans-Hullinger, M.D. is part of The Prairie Doc® team of physicians and currently practices internal medicine in Brookings, South Dakota.

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