“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” —Zig Ziglar

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching.  And though I try to practice gratitude all year, I find November the month when I have increased encouragement and awareness to be grateful.  I am feeling more called to this mindset this Thanksgiving season because of the uncertain world in which we live.

It is through intentionally living in that constant state of gratitude this month that we can choose a healthier state of being.  Gratitude promotes physical health, by lowering blood pressure, building a stronger immune system and promoting better sleep patterns.  When you open your heart and mind through gratitude, positive emotions in the brain change the way neurons fire, helping us to be more optimistic and joyful, reducing anxiety.  Being grateful strengthens our relationships, making us feel closer to God, our friends and families.  Grateful people are more compassionate, generous and helpful. And they “pay it forward’ because those qualities inspire other people to behave in similar ways.

I encourage each of you to make the intention over this next month to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.  Think of one or two new approaches to reaching your goal.  Maybe write a few hand written thank you notes to people in your heart and mind.  Expressing gratitude in a personally scripted note has become something of a lost art.  Maybe you and your family could choose to serve someone.  Rake leaves for a neighbor, help mentor a young person who is struggling or participate in serving a Thanksgiving dinner at a local shelter. Creating opportunities for gratitude can change your mood and help you to better cope with the stress we can feel in everyday life.

I want to share a few things I am particularly grateful for in my “health ministries world”.  I have continued to hear from conference attendees about still being on a “post conference high”.  HMA is pleased that so many of you have taken the time to send messages and complete the conference survey.  The results were very positive and we are announcing, HMA is doing its’ first “Back to Back” conference, returning to Northern Kentucky in 2018.  I am pleased to be working with the planning team again, and will bring your suggestions and ideas to the discussions for next year’s conference.  We are excited to take on the challenge to awe you once more with stellar keynote speakers, rich content, meaningful spiritual offerings and the opportunity to gather and connect with like hearts and minds.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to speak in Pittsburgh at the 25th Annual Symposium for the Mercy Parish Nurse and Health Ministry Program.  Their theme was, “Celebrating Health Ministry – Our Past, Present and Future”.  I enjoyed taking a “stroll down memory lane”, reflecting on all the historic milestones this ministry and our organization have met over the past (nearly) thirty years.   Taking the time to remember so many who have walked before us and to think of the lives touched by this ministry is humbling.

One highlight for me was reconnecting with Sister Rebecca (Becky) Nolan, a Health Ministry Specialist at Mercy who I met at my first Health Ministries Conference in 1997 in Colorado Springs, CO.  Sister Becky and I were novices at that conference, and I am grateful for having the opportunity to meet her, work with her through the years and see the impact she has continued to make in health ministries.  Another event aspect I found meaningful was visiting the featured exhibit tables from many Health Ministry programs in the Pittsburgh area that are offering innovative approaches to whole person care.  It was a pleasure to have the opportunity talk to them, hear their stories and see their outreach.  The lives touched in Pittsburgh over the past twenty five years is impressive.  I am grateful for each of those engaged in the Mercy Program, for their commitment and their loving outreach to those they serve.

I am grateful that Felicia Stewart will be attending the American Nurses Association Organizational Affiliate Meeting as the Health Ministries Association Representative in Birmingham, AL on November 16.  This is the second time HMA will be “at the table” with ANA leadership and nursing organizations to discuss issues and opportunities specific to those nursing practices.  This allows for Faith Community Nurses to have “a voice” and actively participate in decisions that will shape the future of nursing.  Keep Felicia in your prayers as she makes her way to Alabama to represent you.

And though we received the ANCC announcement a few weeks ago about the decision to retire the Certification Through Portfolio Program, there is opportunity for gratitude.  I am grateful for the open dialogue and conversations I have had with many of you since this was announced.  I am appreciative of ANCC continuing to work with us to extend the deadline for application to November 17, allowing many of you the opportunity to complete the work you had begun or to choose to “just do it”.

I am extremely grateful for the connections HMA has made with other nursing organizations who were involved in the Certification Through Portfolio Program.  Those conversations have been enlightening and meaningful.  We continue to work with ANCC and the other nursing organizations to explore ideas and opportunities to use the body of work we have built toward a new certification process.  The lessons learned by HMA in the “certification journey” are many and we have every intention to apply the knowledge to gain a new certification path.  For every door that closes a new door of opportunity opens, and I believe this is the case for HMA.  Stay tuned!

As I reflect on all to be grateful for in this ministry, I also count all of you as HMA members. It is your steadfast commitment to our organization that fuels our efforts and allows them to happen. I thank you for the many ways you collectively support this ministry and help us move forward.
Blessings to you this month on your own gratitude journey…

Marlene Feagan