We just enjoyed the national holiday, Thanksgiving. I hope your weekend was pleasant and full of friends and family. However, some of the things you probably weren’t thankful for may have included the traffic you had to battle to get to your celebration, or to get home. The sharp change in weather that caused mid-west temperatures to plummet after we’d been basking in the 60s. Or maybe you found yourself complaining about the pounds you accumulated from those extra servings of stuffing, potatoes or pumpkin pie (with ice cream, of course!).
No matter how your holiday weekend turned out, one of the key messages this season can offer us is the reminder that gratitude is a worthy pursuit – it is scientifically proven to change a number of mental, emotional and even physical variables in our lives if we build a mindset that focuses on gratitude. Gratitude is a conscious awareness of the good things that happen in your life. Gratitude is both a fleeting emotion and a stable trait—you can experience a thankful moment and/or be a grateful person.
Because gratitude can be cultivated, you may want to know WHY you would want to work on developing gratitude practices or weave gratitude into your everyday demeanor. Here’s eight reasons taken from Psychology Today* to cultivate gratitude:
- Gratitude can get us out of self-pity or moments of feeling sorry for ourselves – it reminds us to give thanks, because even in the middle of disappointment, there is always something we can be grateful for!
- Gratitude can open the doors, even the simple act of saying Thank You or showing appreciation can invite enriched relationships with others.
- Gratitude improves physical health – grateful people report feeling healthier than other people and experiencing less aches and pain than people who do not practice gratitude.
- Gratitude improves psychological health – it reduces a host of toxic feelings like envy, resentment, frustration, and regret. Researchers link gratitude to wellbeing.
- Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression – grateful people are more likely to behave in a kind manner toward others and generate less upset even when given negative feedback.
- Grateful people sleep better – a 2011 study demonstrated that just 15 minutes spent journaling about gratitude brought better and longer sleep that night.
- Gratitude improves self-esteem – a 2014 study found athletes’ self-esteem increased (as did their performance) when they engaged in acts of gratitude.
- Gratitude increases mental strength/stamina – not only reducing stress, but helping people recover from trauma, a 2006 study of veterans indicated lower rates of PTSD among those who practiced gratitude.
So, if you don’t already have a gratitude practice or if you’re not in the habit of tuning into gratitude on a regular basis, you might want to adopt one of these rituals. . .
- Three good things! Simply name or write down at the close of the day three things that went well, delighted you or warmed your heart.
- A bounty of blessings: In this practice you name people you care about (at work, in your personal life, or even distant friends) and connect their name with some gift they’ve given you (no, not a present, a genuine gift, like kindness or compassion or patience).
- Alphabet Gratitude: This one is a little harder, but it might make for a good friends & family game. Just go through the alphabet naming something or someone you’re grateful for that starts with each letter. It might sound like this…I’m grateful for Aunt Alice’s Thanksgiving pies; I’m grateful for Betsy’s warm hospitality each time we visit; I’m grateful for Chocolate Ice Cream!
It doesn’t matter where you start, moving into a mindset of gratitude can change many things (for the better) in your everyday life.
One thing we know for sure is that you cannot stay in anxiety if you choose to move into gratitude. It’s like changing your mental/emotional channel and paying attention to something entirely different than the worries that may be keeping you up at night. Your nervous system will respond to a gratitude practice with an amazing sense of relaxation and calm.
*Reference. (2015). 7 Scientifically proven benefits of gratitude. Psychology Today. 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude | Psychology Today Canada