Dying Alone, Being Grateful, and 4 Ways to Show Gratitude

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Although it’s once a year, we should be giving thanks everyday. Why? In this post, I will share with you why being grateful can change your life. Also, I’ll give you four ways on how to be grateful right now.


Sunset view from my apartment in Grenada during Thanksgiving

The other day, I admitted this unidentified 81-year-old male into the ICU. The story that I got from the other healthcare professionals was that he was found at Costco down and unresponsive. He was brought to our emergency department and found to have a complete heart block from a heart attack. After some procedures including intubation and placement of a pacemaker, he came to the ICU. His wife died three years ago. He has no children. He has no other family. Apparently, his only friend is his doctor in another city.

I stood over the patient as he laid in the ICU bed, intubated, sedated, unresponsive, with all these wires connected to him. He was alone and had no one with him. I imagined if I was in that situation, who would be there for me. I felt sorry for the guy, and felt really grateful for those who I surround myself with.

There has been a lot of buzz in the past several years on the positive impact of gratitude on our lives. In this experiment (Emmons & McCollough 2003), people were divided into one of three groups: gratitude outlook, hassle, and neutral. Everyday, they would have to keep daily and weekly journals. The findings showed a robust positive affect that the gratitude outlook group had in comparison to the other two. So, they concluded that being conscious on blessings can reap benefits in emotional and interpersonal health.

Even for healthcare providers such as myself, this study has shown that being thankful is an effective approach to reducing depressive symptoms. There are numerous others that either reiterate or affirm the positive effects of giving thanks.

So how can we be more thankful?

Here are four options that are effective:

  1. Journaling. I love journaling. An effective way of being grateful is by writing it down! It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can even write simple statements such as “I am grateful for…” and the benefits will still take into effect.
  2. Making a list. Here’s an exercise that will surely pick you up when you are down. Grab a pen and paper and list everything you are thankful for. Don’t stop until you have at least 20 items! It might be hard, but it’ll be worth it.
  3. Praying. Although I’m not deeply religious, I feel that a good prayer here and there can help. You don’t even have to be religious. Thinking about people and things you are grateful for will work just as well.

    “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.” -Meister Eckhart 

  4. Saying thank you. You’ll be surprised how far a simple “Thank You” will go. For bonus points, add eye contact and use their name. Sometimes, you’ll feel that tingle down your spine which feels so good.

Given the many proven benefits of being grateful, it’s easy to see why we should be grateful. So what are you grateful for? Share your comment below!

15 thoughts on “Dying Alone, Being Grateful, and 4 Ways to Show Gratitude

  1. lucita says:

    People and situations will push you till you break, a prayer of thanks everyday will keep you going. I’m so glad you discover this early in your life, I do hope you will never forget. ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. gospelisosceles says:

    I know you just started the blog and congratulations on expanding your practice of touching lives! So, I don’t know how interested you’d be in writing about controversial topics, but it would be interesting to learn your take on the physician-assisted suicide/death-with-dignity issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • doctormikesblog says:

      What a great topic idea. I’ll expand on it more later, but it’s so interesting you mention that because it just became legal here in California where I practice. I personally haven’t seen it done, but I’m sure it’s still very controversial here since it’s so new. Once I dig a bit deeper and find other doctors with experience with it, I’ll post it and let you know!


  3. sparkyjen says:

    Happy Sunday Doctor Mike. I’m sitting here at my kitchen counter eating my potato leek soup and oranges. I’m grateful for the ability to sit pain free today (tiny tailbone problem), and the ability to eat, swallow, digest, and generally enjoy being able, not sick and dying.

    I hope your patient recovers. Maybe he’ll make a friend or two right there in the hospital. He already has you!


    • doctormikesblog says:

      Putting some thought into what you say definitely adds weight to your words. It’s great practice to do this everyday, and even though you’re saying the same “thank you” as you did before, the meaning is much more substantial. Great post and thanks for mentioning me!


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