Reasons to be thankful

Thanks to data collected through CaringBridge's online support community, University of Minnesota researchers can now quantify what your mother always told you: It's good to count your blessings.

For a study published in a scholarly medical journal last year, researchers surveyed CaringBridge users who initiated a "gratitude practice" as a method of self-care. Participants kept a journal for three weeks, listing three things they were thankful for every day.

The study concluded the activity reduced stress and fear, improved sleep and increased overall well-being.

"Encouraging people to cultivate gratitude and look for small things that are going right helped them shift to a more positive mood state over time," said principal researcher Mary Jo Kreitzer from the university's Center for Spirituality & Healing.

Researchers have also collaborated with CaringBridge to analyze the effectiveness of meditation, investigate how patients manage transitions and evaluate effective means for supporting caregivers.

Their conclusions are contributing to knowledge about what practices are effective for people facing health challenges.

"In my professional life, the scientific evidence about the mind-body connection has gone from being scant to being irrefutable," said Kreitzer.

Kevyn Burger