Sometimes it’s hard to be grateful…especially when you’re battling fifty people to get on the 6 train or not sure if you’ll ever see the end of the organic chemistry textbook. But science and common sense tell us that gratitude is the best way to handle all the stress that we get (Brooks 2). A research article published in the journal Cerebral Cortex explains that “gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus (a key part of the brain that regulates stress) and the ventral tegmental area (part of our “reward circuitry” that produces the sensation of pleasure)” (Brooks 2). I mean, when you talk to friend who’s happy to be where he or she is in life, you can tell that he or she is a lot more equipped against all the challenges life throws at us.
Growing up, a lot of people complimented my joyful perspective on the world. I didn’t think twice about it; it was just second nature for me. However, as I started college and the struggles of pre-med track, I gradually began to see that side of me fade. I often found myself complaining more than smiling. I isolated myself to better focus on my studies. Although I was spending more time studying, I was often distracted or too tired. During this past month, I came across Brooks’ article, Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier, in the NY Times. I started to reflect on how I was going through my days this semester. My motivation levels were at an all-time low because I had lost an important habit of being thankful and glad. This Thanksgiving break, I spent time at home with my family. I intentionally thought about things that I’m grateful for: education, close friends, family members, my boyfriend, even the ability to comprehend and memorize…Coming back from this break and realization, I find myself rested and invigorated to finish my semester well!
It might be hard to see things to be grateful for amidst all the schoolwork and extracurricular activities, but what about why you decided to stick with pre-med in the first place? Be grateful for all the awesome science-y things you learn everyday and how cool the human body is! Give thanks for your support system during all of this pressure! Be thankful about your passion and perseverance to help others! Biochemistry might be a different language right now, but don’t forget why you’re studying it. The hardest aspect of gratitude is doing it when you don’t feel like it. But that’s when we need it the most. So the next time you’re ready to give up on memorizing the steps of the Citric Acid Cycle, take a breather and think about what you’re grateful for.
Written by: Sharon Pang