Monday, October 15, 2018

Christena O’Brien

'Gratitude Challenge' helps remind people of what they are thankful for

  • Winston-2

    Winston, a 6-year-old sassy cat, belongs to reporter Christena T. O'Brien, and he is one of the many things the longtime animal lover is grateful for.

    Staff photo by Christena T. O'Brien
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In the darker days of winter, it can be easy to get down, so when a press release advertising the 30-day Gratitude Challenge arrived in my email inbox, I decide to give it a try.

Each day starting Jan. 15, I had to write down something I was thankful for, do something kind and take a moment to be present in the moment.

“Many sources agree that having a positive outlook on life can help improve your mental well-being,” said Sara Carstens, director of community engagement and wellness at Mayo Clinic Health System, in the original release. “Sharing kindness and being mindful supports this positive shift. We hope community members will find that, after journaling for 30 days, they notice an improved outlook and an increased feeling of resilience.”

It certainly did for me after just a few days. I have an extremely crazy schedule, so it’s easy to not always appreciate the things I’m thankful for – like my cat, Winston, and dogs, Chance and Sonny; my family, especially my brother, Steve, who is always willing to lend a helping hand; and my snow blower.

Two weeks into the challenge, I find myself thinking about the positives in my life – even without jotting them down – more often, and with that, the darker days of winter are a bit brighter.

Close to 500 people registered for the challenge, which people can do on their own time 24-7, and some teachers have even brought it to their classrooms, Carstens said.

The Gratitude Challenge continues through Feb. 16, and people can still take part, Carstens said. To download the journal, go to and search for “Gratitude Challenge.” Or, just jot down your thoughts each day in a notebook or on a napkin.

“It doesn’t have to be anything lavish or grand,” said Carstens, who asks her family members each day to list something they are grateful for when the report on their day. “Sometimes the simplest things – like a great cup of coffee -- can be special.”

When the challenge ends, Mayo Clinic Health System plans to provide a journal template, so people who wish to continue the challenge can, Carstens said. “We are really hopeful it will be something to help people.”



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