Gratitude and the Yin of Medicine



What does gratitude and a poke in the arm have in common? A lot.

Gratitude. What a beautiful word; to be grateful is to be thankful for today, to appreciate the people in your life and what you have, in the here and now. It is the awareness that what we have today is a very precious gift. Gratitude is in the behavioral science news a lot these days. Research has shown that being grateful improves ones health in diverse ways. Appreciating and giving thanks regularly has been shown to help one feel more satisfied with life, be happier, boost the immune system and even to reduce the chance of having a heart attack. In other words, giving thanks for what you have today strengthens your health in the present while also promoting a healthier future.

So how does this relate to getting a shot? Vaccination, in my opinion, is the “gratitude” of modern medicine. Receiving a vaccine preserves life as it is, while at the same time quietly setting the stage for a healthy future. Vaccinations have saved more lives than any other development in modern medicine, easily surpassing lives saved from antibiotics, cancer treatments, and even sanitation. Vaccination is the “yin” of medicine, quietly preserving a healthy state of being, rather than fighting disease when one is on the brink of death.

Having a grateful heart means making an effort to notice that “normal” is a gift, and is not to be taken for granted. It is not a fancy party or a vacation to the tropics; rather, it is getting out of bed in the morning, a cup of coffee, and your family. Gratitude is not glamorous.

Likewise, getting vaccinated does not grab headlines, and is not the flashy part of medicine. Sorry, no laser surgery or MRI guided stereotactic gamma knife operation at the Mayo Clinic. Nope, getting a shot is bread and butter prevention of a disease so you can live your life another day. Vaccines are truly the unsung hero of medicine, quietly doing the daily work of maintaining the status quo, of appreciating human health untouched by disease.

Next time you get that shot, maybe pause and reflect upon what that vaccine is quietly doing for you, now and in the future. A disease has not happened, and you have the opportunity to experience life to its fullest, now.