November 2018
Thanksgiving, Gratitude, and Mental Health
by Melissa Vallas, MD

As we approach Thanksgiving, a widely celebrated day dedicated to remembering and acknowledging the goodness in our lives, we should stop to reflect on how this process of giving thanks for our blessings can positively impact the lives of our patients.

Over the last decade, there has been an increase in research dedicated to better understanding the effects of gratitude on health and relationships — and the results are astonishing. The simple act of expressing gratitude on a consistent basis has been shown to positively impact key areas in a person's life including: relationships and connectedness, emotional well-being, and physical health. 

First, gratitude helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals whether to other people, nature, or a higher power. In the process of expressing a thankful appreciation for those tangible and intangible things received, very often people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside of themselves.

And as a result, gratitude can help people to become more social and develop deeper and healthier relationships, which in turn can improve their emotional health. In fact, positive social experiences and higher levels of social integration and support are associated with improved coping ability in all ages.

Furthermore, gratitude can foster spirituality: Transcendence and openness to exploring a relationship with a higher power or value, which oftentimes, involves both a process of deriving meaning, purpose, and direction in one's life. And the bulk of the literature on spirituality and mental health suggests that the relationship between the two is a positive one; from decreasing  depression  and anxiety to helping people cope with  substance abuse .
Gratitude can also improve a person's emotional well-being. Robert A. Emmons, PhD, of the University of California, Davis, has done much of the research on gratitude. He suggests 4 significant areas where gratitude can have a positive effect on emotion.

First, gratitude magnifies positive emotions by helping us to appreciate the value in something; thus gaining more benefit from it. Second, it blocks toxic, negative   emotions, such as envy, resentment, and regret — emotions that can destroy happiness. Third, gratitude fosters resiliency. And lastly, gratitude promotes self-worth. 

Finally, gratitude can have positive effects on physical health. There is robust literature suggesting that gratitude can make us healthier. Studies suggest that people who express gratitude often have fewer physical symptoms, less pain, and more energy and vitality. Grateful people also tend to be more likely to participate in activities that promote physical health such as exercise and regular routine doctor visits.

It was wordsmith William Author Ward who said, “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, routine jobs into joys, and ordinary opportunities into blessings.” Helping our patients understand how gratitude could improve their lives may give them a deeper appreciation for what it truly means to celebrate Thanksgiving, and hopefully encourage them to carry a sense of thankfulness and gratitude throughout the remainder of the year.

Melissa Vallas, MD,  is lead psychiatrist at Children's System of Care, Alameda County (California) Behavioral Health Care Services Agency.

  1. Seeman TE. Social Relationships, Gender, and Allostatic Load Across Two Age Cohorts. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2002; 64(3): 395-406.
  2. Margetic B. Religiosity and health outcomes: review of literature. Coll Antropol. 2005; 29 (1): 365-371.
  3. Hodges S. Mental Health, Depression, and Dimensions of Spirituality and Religion. Journal of Adult Development. 2002; 9(2): 109-115.
  4. Kirkwood G, et al. Yoga for anxiety: a systematic review of the research evidence: Br J Sports Med. 2005; 39(12): 884-891.
  5. Emmons RA and McCullough M E. Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003; 84(2): 377-389.

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They say you should never stop learning...
Which is why our staff members attend regular trainings to learn how to best serve our clients. In October, our Direct Service Coordinators leveled up on terminology and pronouns for persons of different gender identities, as well as ways to better understand and relate to our LGBTQ clients. Thanks for teaching us, Freestate Justice!
Empowering Minds is proud to partner with ShareBaby

Our partnership includes monthly diaper distributions for EMRC clients with children between the ages of 0 - 5 years old.  In addition, EMRC is currently accepting "ShareBaby Coat Requests" for children ages 0 - 5 years old and requests for Boy or Girl newborn bundles.

Newborn bundles include:
1 pack of size 1 diapers
1 pack of size 2 diapers
1 0-3 month onesie
1 0-3 month outfit (top & bottom)
1 3-6 month onesie
1 3-6 month outfit (top & bottom)
1 6-12 month onesie,
1 6-12 month outfit (top & bottom)

 If you are in need of diapers, a coat or newborn bundle for a child between 0 - 5 years old, please contact your  Direct Service Coordinator  to submit your request and provide the sex of the baby and size needed between 0 - 24 months or 2t - 5t. If you have any questions, please contact Katie Tyminski at the Baltimore City office.
EMRC will participate in the 5th Annual Harford County Trauma Conference on November 9th, 2018

The Harford County Trauma Institute seeks to increase knowledge regarding the impact of the trauma on our community’s children, adults and families, in order to enhance the skills of professionals, foster parents, and others who care for and serve them. This ultimately translates into improved well-being and functioning for our community and more opportunities/access to trauma-informed and evidence-based treatment when trauma occurs. If you are interested in participating in the conference, please register with the link below:

Maryland General Election
Nov 6, 2018
Early Voting:  Oct 25, 2018 - Nov 1, 2018
Harford County Group
Baltimore City Groups
Mondays 6-7 PM 
Women's Group, Teen's Group, and Youth Group
Tuesdays 6-7 PM
Men's Group
Anne Arundel County Groups

Empowering Minds Resource Center is proud to announce there is currently  NO WAIT LIST at the agency. We work hard everyday to ensure referrals are quickly processed and clients are engaged by our staff and partnered therapists immediately. We are ready, willing and able to accept new clients TODAY.  

Empowering Minds Resource Center has no waitlist for our CARE COORDINATION FOR MINORS and our PSYCHIATRIC REHABILITATION PROGRAM in Harford County
 Empowering Minds recognizes Kala Jacobs as the agency's Direct Service Coordinator of the Month for November

Kala Jacobs has been a tremendous mentor and DSC for our youth and male clients! He has taken the youth to weekly youth group, basketball games, football games, the Reginald F Lewis Museum, and other community venues exposing our youth to various activities that assist them to master their social skills. Mr. Jacobs is looked up to as a role model, and we truly appreciate all that Mr. Jacobs does for our Baltimore City and Harford County clients. Thanks Kala!


Empowering Minds is looking to add some new members to our wonderful team. Check out the link below for more information!
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