Choose Gratitude – And Not Only On Holidays

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Every year around the holidays, we hear people ask us what we are grateful for in our lives. Children start learning about being grateful at an early age, coming home from school with all the things that make them feel thankful and happy glued to a construction paper turkey. But why do we only focus on this idea of being thankful at a certain time of the year?

The holiday season can bring on sadness, anxiety and depression in many people, especially in seniors. Some people may feel overwhelmed, lost or lonely during a season that is supposed to be joyous. A focus on gratitude in a more consistent way can help us improve our lives, not only during the holiday season, but daily.

We can define gratitude as a positive emotion associated with identifying thankfulness for things tangible and intangible. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” Therefore, practicing gratitude allows us to lift our spirits, improve our health, build strong connections, and most of all, feel happiness!

Gratitude is a way to be thankful for what you have in your life without always having to reach for more. This type of outlook can overpower negativity, allowing our brains to shift from negative emotions, like jealousy or envy, to positive emotions, like joy and happiness. This is why you hear people suggest you write down three things everyday that you are grateful for. Over time, a gratitude practice such as this has long-lasting effects on mood and behavior. Gratitude has also been proven to reduce depression in individuals by 35% because it combats both anxiety and sadness.

With a thankful mindset, we can acknowledge the goodness in our lives. We are able to connect with something much larger than just ourselves. Gratitude allows us a moment to stop chasing all of the things we “need” to be happy. We are then able to be grateful for what we already do have – and are lucky to have. Research has shown that people who consciously count their blessings are happier and less depressed overall.

Being grateful in your everyday life also gives us the gift of improving our connections and relationships with the people we care about. We develop compassion and empathy, becoming more aware of how our actions impact others around us. This awareness leads to positive feelings like confidence and joy, which only help us to improve our personal well-being.

Yes, this all sounds wonderful in theory – but how exactly do we practice being grateful when our lives are so hectic, crazy, and busy? The go, go, go that today’s world expects from all of us can significantly get in the way. The best plan to put theory into practice is to establish a routine. Creating a new habit takes time to adjust to, but sticking with it will only have a positive outcome on your mental well-being.

Here are six simple suggestions for adding a gratitude practice into your own life:

  1. Start a Gratitude Journal
    There are many positive impacts associated with journaling and writing down how you feel. Journaling allows you to look back and reflect on how you were feeling during both positive and negative experiences. Writing also allows you to use different parts of your brain, opening the door for new perspectives and possibly, new appreciations.
  2. Three Things, Every Day
    Write down three things you are grateful for, every day. You don’t need to think of big things – it can be as simple as, “I am grateful for my morning cup of coffee.” Most importantly, be thoughtful, and be consistent. Choose a time of day and make it a habit. Doing this every day will absolutely increase your happiness and decrease depression.
  3. Share The Love
    By telling people in our lives why we are grateful for them, we give others a kind gesture, and give ourselves a good feeling in our hearts, too. Start by choosing one person in your life you can consciously thank, and write a thoughtful text or note, or even give a small “thinking of you” gift. Get creative and feel the rewards of the positive connections you make with others. Who doesn’t want to hear how someone appreciated their actions?
  4. See The Love
    Sometimes it’s as easy as being present and noticing the nice gestures around us! Be mindful of the thoughtfulness that went into someone sending you a kind note or a small token of appreciation. Reflect on how special it is that someone thought of you in that way. They feel good, and you do, too. It’s a win-win.
  5. Thank Yourself
    Write a thank you letter – to yourself. It may sound silly, but it’s truly no different than journaling. Remembering to be grateful for your own positive choices and your own self-care is not selfish. Write down how thankful you are to yourself for creating a life you enjoy! Keep this note nearby. A thank you letter to yourself can serve as a reminder of how amazing you are on a day when you are feeling lousy.
  6. Consider Trying Something New
    Loving how gratitude makes you feel? You may be ready for meditation. Meditation allows us to widen our perspective and find deeper connections within ourselves. It can take our feelings of being grateful to a much deeper appreciation and positively impact our well-being. There are many guided meditation apps and videos to follow along with on YouTube to get you started on this journey.
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