“What are the benefits of feeling and expressing gratitude?” It turns out grateful people have an edge over the not-so-grateful when it comes to physical and mental health, according to several recent psychological studies. They tend to exercise more regularly, eat healthier diets, and get a boost to their immune system. In addition, feelings of thankfulness have a tremendous positive value in helping people deal with increased stress and anxiety which are associated with the holidays. Gratitude can also serve as a buffer against symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) such as sadness and depression which tend to build up slowly in late autumn and into the winter months.
What better time to reflect of gratitude than during the fast approaching holiday season. Amid the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, mindfully take a few minutes to slow down, breathe deep, and reflect upon the many blessings in your life. You can start today to grow your feelings of gratitude. Here’s how:
- Keep a Gratitude Journal.The simple act of writing down a few things on a daily or weekly basis for which you are grateful is a great way to feel better about your life as a whole and to feel more optimistic about the future.
- Count Your Blessings. This list may include family, friends, freedom, spiritual convictions, hobbies, talents, and material comforts. After writing everything that comes to mind, ask yourself, “To what extent do I take these for granted?” Tuck this list away and pull it out whenever you’re feeling down in the dumps. This is an excellent reminder of the good things in your life.
- Try a Positive Reframe. When faced with a challenging situation, see how it could ultimately be beneficial. For example, if you are having a particularly hard time getting along with a neighbor or coworker, rather than complaining that the person is “trying” your patience look at it as an opportunity to “improve” your patience.
- Graciously Accept Gratitude from Other People. Society has taught us to dismiss the gratitude directed towards us as unnecessary. Saying things such as, “No problem; it was nothing,” or “No thanks is necessary,” robs others of the benefits of showing gratitude. A simple, “You’re welcome,” lets people know you appreciate being thanked.
As you incorporate these few ideas into your life, I hope you will find – as I have – that life will become richer and more satisfying this holiday season by expressing gratitude to loved ones and by giving thanks for all that blesses your life. Happy Holidays!