FamilyHabitsHappy Father's DayThanksgiving

The Gratitude Drug

By November 20, 2017 9 Comments

Today husband had four stitches put in his head.

As I drove him to the ER, my imagination went into overdrive as I imagined all of the worst case scenarios. I began to feel mad. How dare he get hurt? This was not on Monday’s schedule! Clearly, I need to get a grip.

Also: my impatience makes me a bad nurse. I like things to be “fine.” I am annoyed by sickness and injury as if they are personal weaknesses. Sigh. Bad nurse.

Impatience and mad finally gave way to a rush of relief. He was okay and so I was, too.

In the long run, it was a little thing, but you know, life changes as quickly as the flip of the switch. Flip. Your life is turned upside down.

There is nothing like spending the day in a hospital to give you perspective.The Thankful Tree, a physical manifestation of our  gratitude. If you’re looking for a family activity, I suggest this one! It’s fun. The kids think it’s great to glue thankful leaves on a tree branch. I’m going to write “Gregor’s Forehead” on a leaf.

I’m also thinking we should tell the people we love that WE REALLY DO LOVE THEM. Because the Thanksgiving table changes. People somehow get swapped out. This year I will have to make a giant paper Cope Cut-out.

Cope, we love you.

Life is good. We are alive and well. Even if our girl will be eating mashed potatoes in the Wasatch Mountains…sniff…(but Patrick and Natalie, I am SO GRATEFUL for hosting her!!!)

Small events like this morning are reminders. We are mortal. I’m grateful for more time. It’s a feeling that floods through me. It’s like a drug. Literallly.

Did you know? This relief, this thankfulness, this GRATITUDE activates a reward center in our brain: meaning we crave more. Read THIS Great Post! “When we feel grateful, we are programmed to seek out more experiences or things to be grateful for, more ways to feel that high.”

And guess what else? The more we practice gratitude, the better we get at it. The brain continues to seek after what made us feel so good (confirmation bias) so it keeps finding ways to be grateful, which in turn keeps rewarding us with feel-good dopamine.

But on the flip side: it could also do the opposite. If we look for ways that life is no-good horrible, our brain will keep finding more no-good horrible. We could actually train our brain to seek after the bad.

Fascinating, no?

I think I’ll stick with feel-good dopamine hits.

For starters: Sunsets

Children hopping off a school bus

The change of seasons

This guy. A scar on the forehead should just make him more fetching, right?

I’m thankful he’ll be at the table (and cooking the turkey and stuffing.)

There was another dopamine hit:

Starving, I went to the hospital cafeteria for soup and a Diet Coke (I know, a drug I’ve got to quit) only to discover they didn’t take credit cards. While fumbling through my purse to no avail, a man pulled out five dollars. “It’s the holidays,” he said, handing it over to the cashier.

Gratitude flooded through me right there in the check-out line. What kindness.

In turn, I wanted to buy someone else lunch. See what he did there?

Just think, if we were all so kind, the gratitude drug could become an epidemic. We could be swimming in happiness.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.



  • Ginny Bartoldus says:

    Thank you Amy. We all can have those moments in our lives when we forget what this life is truly all about. When we take a moment to truly reflect on our blessings everything does change. There are some days where it can be difficult to stop but then a “moment” hits you and you remember what life is truly all about!❤️

    From our home to yours… have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

  • Carrie Rubin says:

    Gratitude is a drug I’ll gladly take. Thank you for reminding us to never miss a dose.

  • Jen says:

    Thanks for a window into your world, Amy! I have been counting my blessings all fall and it IS true- my heart now craves to seek out the positive & be grateful every day. Hope Gregor feels better soon, and that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Cope will be fine.❤️

  • Lorraine says:

    Even nurses get impatient and want everyone and everything to go smoothly :). Did Gregor walk into a wall? Poor guy!
    Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for the gratitude reminder….love the tree!

  • Diane Juthe says:

    Amy, Thank you for helping to keep us mindful. Gratitude does wonders for the soul. I love reading your posts!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  • Herb says:

    Amy, thanks so much for your thoughts on gratitude. We just celebrated our second Thanksgiving in Ukraine. We will always be grateful for the blessing of spending 18 months among these wonderful people. As we head home next week, we will treasure within our hearts thankful memories to last the rest of our lives. We hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season. I look forward to reading your novel next summer.

    • maisymak says:

      Thanks, Herbie! Congratulations to you and Laurine for a job well done! Really wish we weren’t so far away. Have a wonderful retirement in St. George and maybe one of these days Gregor and I can venture on over for a visit…xoxoxo

  • Julia Tomiak says:

    I’m late, but that doesn’t make this post any less inspiring. Thank you for the reminder that we get more of what we attend to. I like those dopamine hits too, and I will seek them over the other stuff. Thank you, and glad hubby is okay. (You’re only human- I would have experienced annoyance too- the important thing is you moved past that to something fabulous, and then shared it with us!)

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