Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays – comfort food, family, football, and the special time devoted to being grateful. We hear about gratitude all the time, but what is it really, how should we practice it, and what can it do for us?
What Is Gratitude?
Webster’s Dictionary defines gratitude as “the state of being grateful; thankfulness,” and grateful as “appreciative of benefits received.” What does that mean for us? Researchers explain gratitude as a multi-step process. The first step is recognizing that you have something to be grateful for, something positive. Step two, acknowledge that the positive thing came from someone or something other than yourself.
What Can Gratitude Do For You?
Simple activities like making lists or writing letters can improve mental and physical health. Research studies that have asked participants to regularly write down things that they are grateful for or deliver thank you letters to people who have positively influenced them demonstrate greater happiness and more optimism after just a few weeks. Some of those participants even exercised more and were healthier than those who did not practice gratitude.
Practicing simple exercises to bring your awareness to all of the things you can be grateful for can help you feel better mentally, emotionally, and physically. Five minutes a day can be all that you need to feel these effects, and the Thanksgiving season is the perfect time to start.
How Can You Practice Gratitude?
1. Write a thank you letter: Is there someone in your life that is always there when you need something but never really gets the thanks that they deserve? A thank you note is a small gesture, but can be so meaningful.
You’ll feel great, and you’ll leave another person feeling moved and uplifted.
2. Keep a gratitude journal: Journaling is not for everyone, but don’t shy away from this idea if you’re not a writer! A gratitude journal can be as simple as lists of things or pictures that you come across throughout the day or week or as complex as detailed narrative entries.
I like to make lists of things that made me feel grateful before I go to sleep at night so I can lay my head down full of warm fuzzies.
Some people prefer to make their lists before they start the workday so that they can start every day on a positive.
The great thing about journaling is that you can do it any time!
3. Practice mindfulness and heartfulness: I teach mindfulness to 9- to 12-year olds, and we actually practice heartfulness. We sit quietly and think about one person that we really care for and practice sending them kind thoughts.
We use the mantra, “May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you find joy.”
It’s so important and heartwarming to take the time to be grateful for the people in our lives.
It Only Takes a Few Minutes!
Taking a few minutes out of your day to acknowledge all of the people and things that you have to be grateful for is a simple way to improve your mental and physical health.
We encourage you to remember how much you have to be grateful for this holiday season and fill yourself with positive vibes and good energy! Comment below and let us know how you practice gratitude.