Each year, as the Thanksgiving Holiday approaches, we are inundated with media reminding us to be thankful. We are encouraged to count our blessings and offer up gratitude in the spirit of the season. As we prepare to celebrate this holiday founded upon gratitude, many people do pause to give thanks. Being surrounded by family and friends, cooking together and sharing a meal creates an atmosphere of appreciation and love. This prompts our recognition of health, happiness, success and life. But when the holiday comes to an end, we may inadvertently allow these warm feelings wane. Gratitude, however, is a feeling that deserves to stay with us all year long, beyond Thanksgiving. Not only is it beneficial for personal relationships, research shows that it also provides a significant boost to emotional well being.
Researchers at the University of Miami studied the effect of feeling and expressing heartfelt gratitude, and found it is beneficial for long term emotional health. Likewise, at the University of California-Davis, psychologists found gratitude can act as a stress buffer, because focusing on the things, events and people for which you are thankful and appreciative, redirects negative emotions. In fact, a UC-Davis study asked one group of people to keep gratitude diaries. The findings indicated 75 percent of those who regularly wrote in the diaries scored higher on happiness tests, and developed better sleep and exercise patterns.
How can you integrate these exercises into your own routine? Start by journaling. Each day, take a few moments of quiet reflection, and concentrate on the good things in your life. Consider what your life would be like without these things; your spouse and children, your health, your home, good friends, even your hobbies and talents. Also think about individual instances that deserve gratitude. Examples include a kind deed or compliment that improved your whole day; a successful party or gathering you hosted; a safe commute to work through inclement weather; an hour of yoga or other exercise that refreshed and rejuvenated you.
Even seemingly minute blessings are worthy of gratitude, so write them down and add a short reminder of why you are so thankful for each occurrence. Since so many positive emotions are linked to gratitude, it shouldn’t take long for you to feel your mood lifting. A few weeks of journaling will condition your mind to feel appreciation more readily over time, which can lead to improved overall enthusiasm, alertness, positivity and focus.
Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday to start your journey to understanding and expressing gratitude. Don’t let it end with the snap of the wishbone. Use this information and these techniques to carry gratitude through your entire year, and next Thanksgiving, you may be expressing thanks for an incredible transformation in your attitude, and your life.