Health Changes for the Better when Bitterness is Uprooted – Just Ask Dr Seuss!

A seasonal blog by my Georgia colleague Stormy Falso about what The Whos Knew

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Turns out the Whos down in Who-ville had it right. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” by Dr. Seuss spins the story of the Grinch, who decides to deprive the Whos of their Christmas celebration by stealing their presents and decorations. But, to the Grinch’s surprise, the Whos continue their observance without the gifts. This prompts the Grinch to experience a change of heart, return the Whos’ Christmas gifts and even join their celebration.

While this holiday classic points out that Christmas is more than all the commercialization, it also illustrates that bitterness melted away brings health. After all, the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes. It’s not just fiction though. Dr. Charles Raison, association professor of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine, and CNNHealth’s Mental Health expert doctor, observes that “Bitterness is a nasty solvent that erodes every good thing.” Research included in a new book, “Embitterment: Societal, psychological, and clinical perspectives,” surveys current embitterment studies and draws the line between mental outlook and health. It shows that health can change for the better when bitterness is rooted out.

Additionally, a study conducted by psychologist Dr. Glen Affleck at the University of Connecticut found that “cardiac patients who blamed their heart attacks on others were more likely to suffer another heart attack within the next eight years. On the other hand, perceiving benefits and gains from an initial heart attack, including becoming more appreciative of life, was related to a reduced risk for subsequent attack.”

To get rid of bitterness requires a change of perspective, a change of thought. People have found prayer works to alleviate bitterness and its effects. Someone once shared with me the idea that holding on to bitterness or resentment was like letting it have free rent in your home. Sometimes evicting these thoughts is like trying to unstick duct tape. A solvent is needed to remove the adhesive. A recent study found gratitude can act as that mental solvent.

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The question then becomes, how do you find genuine gratitude? Admittedly this is a very individual process. I start with things like a shared moment with a loved one or a laugh with a stranger. Then I try to look outside of myself to find things to be grateful for, like watching the children in my neighborhood playing and appreciating their lightheartedness, exuberance and joy. I feel like it keeps my gratitude honest to look beyond myself. It also helps in those times when gratitude may be difficult to feel.

The Whos understood it. Even without all the accouterments of Christmas they still felt love, appreciation and joy. It was so strong it even grew the Grinch’s heart! What Dr. Seuss observed and written has now been tested, tried and proved.

The Whos knew!

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