Thanksgiving is a time to take a moment to pause and reflect on gratitude and what it means for you. As research has not fully backed, gratitude holds the power to not only improve happiness levels but strengthen social ties, boost self esteem and reduce stress. It can help you achieve a peace of mind that allows for better rest and overall health benefits. When you put your attention on awareness of what you have that is good, it can help steer your thinking from dwelling on what is not.
As we glide past our annual day of Thanksgiving and into the holiday season not too far away, look for opportunities to be grateful and show gratitude to others. How might this extend onward and be carried with you as a way of approaching life? It can take some practice to shift into this mindset, especially if you’ve had some challenging experiences behind you in your life. Even for those who have a more positive outlook, it can be easy to forget to notice things that are good and articulate gratitude to others.
Here are some people’s reflections on gratitude:
“There are lots of moments I wish I could get back. But since my mom died I do think I am better at helping others, even when I get in a big hurry and am pissed off at people for being slow and wasting my time, like standing at Starbucks in line. You just need to put yourself in that person’s shoes and you will find a nicer, calmer self in no time.”
“I am often over-scheduled and blame myself and others for not having enough time…but you are absolutely right. I remind myself as much as possible…humanity wins out. Take a deep breath and be present. EVERYBODY has someplace to go…”
“I try to physically break the reverie of negative thoughts by stretching or massaging my temples… anything that reminds me that this is not just a moment in time, but that I am a being with finite physical, mental, and emotional resources and I need to recharge my batteries. It’s not about the stimulus; it’s about how you react to the stimulus. And I also try to remember that it’s human to have the anger and frustration with life…”
“Validate my feelings and failings and life’s frustrations without letting them control the day. You can make a list of all the frustrating things that happened that day or a list of the wonderful things, both lists are true. It’s a matter of choosing your focus.”
“Gratitude. We don’t spend enough time reflecting on it. Even with all the losses, surgeries, rough moments my family have gone through over the past 2 years especially, it’s reminders like yours that we are so very, very fortunate. How amazing is this life!! And if we reflect more on what makes us grateful, we might just take the time to smile a bit about it all.”
There are many ways to start to incorporate a gratitude mindset into your life. At the end of the day before you go to sleep, ponder a few things that happened that day that were positive and you appreciate. Journaling can help. But writing a letter might be more even more effective, according to a piece in the Greater Good Science , Six New Studies That Can Help You Rediscover Gratitude. And maybe surprising, when it comes expressions of gratitude, another study found that the impact is really same whether it’s text, video or in real life.
Another helpful thing to try is to notice throughout the day things you normally don’t; the beauty of flowers in a neighbor’s garden, the friendly store clerk, an interaction you had with a friend that was meaningful.
Some are challenged with a very strong negativity bias and there are probably good reasons for that stemming from core beliefs stemming from their family of origin or more recent trauma. If you need help finding your way towards gratitude, seek counseling or other support.