Cultivating Gratitude During the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us. Beginning with Thanksgiving, we’re entering the time of year when we’re encouraged to stop and consider all we have to be grateful for in our lives. And doing so is good for us. Research has demonstrated that feelings of gratitude are associated with better health, sounder sleep, greater happiness and kinder actions toward others. Holiday gatherings provide useful opportunities to cultivate feelings of gratitude. We often come together with family and friends, many of whom have been important influences in our life. Take a moment to acknowledge and give thanks for each of them. Let them know how they’ve guided, inspired or supported you and how much they mean to you. Even our most difficult relatives usually have some redeeming qualities. Choosing to focus our attention on what’s positive about them, no matter how small, rather than dwelling on their annoying habits can improve your state of mind.
Remembering to be grateful takes practice for most of us. The holidays may be a good time to begin practices such as keeping a gratitude journal. Taking time each day to identify a few things you feel grateful for has been proven to improve mood and feelings of well-being. A version of this, which has been studied at Duke University Medical Center, is called Bite Sized Resilience: Three Good Things. This practice involves writing down three positive things at the end of the day. Not only has this helped to reduce the rates of burnout among healthcare providers, but it has been shown to improve resilience, sleep quality, work-life balance, and even depression.
“Gratitude visits” can be another useful practice. Recommended by Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, this exercise begins with writing a 300-word letter to someone who has changed your life for the better. Be specific about what the person did and how it affected you. Then deliver it in person, preferably without telling the person in advance. Read the whole letter to her or him slowly, allowing time for both of you to savor the feelings of warmth and connection. Research suggests you’ll feel happier and less depressed for weeks afterward.
At times holiday rituals intended to be expressions of gratitude interfere with the experience for some people. As Kira Newman from the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center writes in The Trouble with Thanksgiving Gratitude, “For the shy adult or the grumpy teen, expressing gratitude around the Thanksgiving table can seem awkward and trite.” These forced “grateful motions” can feel more like a burden than a blessing. Newman suggests four exercises that can help everyone feel less pressured and more authentically grateful.
Our culture’s consumerism can be another obstacle. Giving holiday gifts to show thanks and appreciation to loved ones can become bogged down in materialism. In Cultivating Gratitude in a Consumerist Society, Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University discusses research that shows experiential gifts give greater satisfaction than material ones and that experiential gifts lead to higher levels of gratitude.
To help you get in the mindset of gratitude, take a few minutes to watch Louie Schwartzberg’s TED Talk on the subject. You’ll be reminded of all we have to be grateful for each day of our lives. Additional resources to support your gratitude practice are listed below.

Articles and Videos on Gratitude
Holiday Gratitude Traditions for Fostering Gratitude in Children, Christine Carter, Ph.D., sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center who blogs on science-based parenting advice.
Turn Holiday Resentment into Gratitude by Meg Selig
Six Habits of Highly Grateful People, by Jeremy Adam Smith
Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal, by Jason Marsh

Gratitude Apps
Happier by Happier, Inc. – Free for iOS
Attitudes of Gratitude Journal – free for Android
Gratitude 365 – $1.99 – iOS

Come to our Resilience and Mindfulness Workshop on March 18th!

By Christine M Moynihan
February 23rd, 2015 in Uncategorized.

Karen Brouhard will be presenting a workshop on Resilience and Mindfulness at the BU Fitness and Recreation Center on Wednesday, March 18th at 12:00 pm. The workshop will help you learn ways to develop and maintain resilience, and try mindfulness techniques to help build your resilience. To register for this workshop and to see and other upcoming Fitrec events, go here.


How to Cope with Winter

By Christine M Moynihan
February 19th, 2015 in Resilience, Stress, Uncategorized.

Let’s face it- winter in Boston can be hard.  The lack of sunlight, the cold, and the letdown from the holidays can really do a number on our sense of happiness and well-being.  Add record-breaking amounts of snow to a typical dark and dreary season, and we are bound to find ourselves experiencing high levels of  depression, stress and anger. How can we cope with the effects of a winter that does not seem to end?

U.S. News & World Report has an article about how to deal with snow rage.  The author, Angela Haupt, breaks down the symptoms of snow rage and lists some things that you can do if you find yourself  more short-tempered than usual. Many of her suggestions also work for the more general stress and unhappiness that occurs during this time of year.

Be aware of your emotional and physical state.  If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, anxious, or angry, take a break from what you are doing. If your body is tensing up, or you can feel negative emotions building to a boiling point, looks for ways to calm yourself.  Try to take some slow, deep breaths. Think about something that you find calming, or that makes you happy.

Now is a time to find activities that you enjoy. Find a good podcast, or listen to some music that outs you in a good mood. Watch a movie, TV show, or video that you enjoy. Read a book or magazine that eluded you during the warmer months.  Talk to a good friend or someone positive in your life- even if it is a short conversation, it can brighten your day, and may help the other person as well.

Take care of yourself.  Lack of sleep can exacerbate irritability. It can be challenging, but try to get enough sleep.  Food can affect your mood; try to eat healthy.  When you are stuck indoors and might have trouble getting to a grocery store, that can be hard.  Don’t give up completely and use the bad weather as an excuse to eat food that might make you feel good now, but  will make you feel worse later on. Try to get outside, even if it is cold and the sun does not appear to be out. Open up your shades and blinds to bring as much natural light as possible into your house.  If you can exercise safely, continue some version of your regimen.  If your typical exercise routine is not viable, now might be a good time to try something different.

If you feel as though you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, here is some information from the Mayo Clinic on what it is, and how to manage the symptoms.

If you work at BU and would like to talk to someone in the Faculty & Staff Assistance Office about winter stress, or stress and anxiety in general, feel free to contact us for free, confidential counseling. You can or use our contact  form, or call us:

Charles River Campus: 617-353-5381

BU Medical Campus: 617-638-5381

Stay safe and warm!



We Have Updated Our Interpersonal Violence in the Workplace Page

By Christine M Moynihan
January 15th, 2015 in Domestic Violence, Staff.

BU Faculty and Staff might find the information that we have added to our Interpersonal Violence in the Workplace page helpful.  We have added a PDF version of a flyer that includes information about the Domestic and Interpersonal Violence-related leave law, and also lists the ways the Faculty Staff Assistance Office can help.

We have also added a link to a video by called “Supervisors Can Make a Difference: The Workplace Impact of Domestic and Sexual Violence and Stalking”, which gives practical guidance on how managers can respond to employees who experience interpersonal violence.

If you have any questions or would like to make an appointment to speak with one of our counselors, feel free to call us at 617-353-5381 on the Charles River Campus, 617-638-5381 on the Medical Campus, or contact us using our online form.


Come to our Holiday Stress Workshop on Tuesday December 9th!

By Christine M Moynihan
December 4th, 2014 in Minfdulness, Stress, Uncategorized.

The BU Occupational Health Center is hosting a great Coping with Holiday Stress workshop presented by our own Karen Brouhard on Tuesday, December 9th from 12:00 to 1:00 pm in the Boston University Occupational Health Center room ( 930 Commonwealth Avenue, West Pleasant Street entrance) .  As of December 4th, there are still some seats left. To see more info and to register for this and other events, see the info on the Human Resources Health Promotions Page.

If you would like to figure out some ways to deal with Holiday stress and can’t make it to the talk, feel free to call us and make an appointment to talk to one of our counselors. If you are on the Charles River Campus, you can call us at 617-353-5381. If you are on the Med Campus, you can call us at 617-638-5381.

We have added information to our website about interpersonal violence

By Christine M Moynihan
December 3rd, 2014 in Uncategorized.

We have just added information in our services section about interpersonal violence. If you would like to learn more about what interpersonal violence is, what some of the warning signs might be, and how the Faculty and Staff Assistance Office can help you, please go to our page here: . There is also information for supervisors on how to interact with and assist people affected by interpersonal violence .

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment to talk to a counselor, feel free to call us at 617-353-5381 or 617-638-5381.

Come see the FSAO at the Charles River Faculty and Staff Wellness Fair on Friday November 14th!

By Christine M Moynihan
November 12th, 2014 in Wellness Fair.

The Faculty & Staff Assistance Office will be at the November 14th Fall Faculty and Staff Wellness Fair, hosted by Human Resources in the FitRec Center upstairs gym. Drop by and say hi, try out our stress dots, and pick up some free lip balm just in time for the cold weather. You can also learn about our free and confidential services before taking in all of the other offerings at the Fair.

If you are on the Med Campus, We will see you at the November 19th Wellness Fair!

October 28th Silent Witness Domestic Violence Exhibit

By Christine M Moynihan
November 3rd, 2014 in Domestic Violence.

On October 28th, The Faculty and Staff Assistance Office and BMC’s  Domestic Violence Program sponsored the Silent Witness Exhibit in the lobby of the Boston University Medical School.  See a photo of the event on BU Today: .

Sharing Our Stories: Writing for Wellness Program for BUMC and BMC Staff and Faculty

By Christine M Moynihan
September 17th, 2014 in BMC, BU Med Campus, Burnout, Faculty, Minfdulness, Resilience, Staff, Stress.

On September 30th and November 13th, The Boston Medical Center Medical Dental Staff Wellness Committee, the Nursing Office of Education, Patient Advocacy, and the Boston University Faculty Staff Assistance Program are sponsoring a drop in writing workshop for interdisciplinary clinicians on the Boston University Med Campus.

You can find more details about this program on the flyer:

Resilience and Mindfulness for Physicians

By Christine M Moynihan
August 13th, 2014 in Burnout, Minfdulness, Resilience, Stress.

Karen Brouhard, a counselor in the Faculty & Staff Assistance Office, recently presented a workshop for physicians that dealt with stress and burnout.  The workshop focused on ways to address the stress and burnout, build resilience, and learn about the resources available for physicians through both Boston Medical Center and Boston University.Click on the Resilience and Mindfulness Program for BMC Physicians link to see the presentation.

MIT Startup Has a Business Model That Includes Hiring Employees With Autism

By Christine M Moynihan
August 12th, 2014 in Apsergers, Autism, Parenting Challenges, Special Needs.

Slate Magazine has an interesting article about two MIT grads who co-founded a software testing service called Ultra Testing . The company makes a point to hire  people on the autism spectrum.  You can find the article here.