There are many things that make Thanksgiving so special. For many the time spent with family or friends gives the day special significance, while others particularly enjoy the traditional tasty dishes of the holiday. I enjoy both these aspects of the holidays as well, but the thing that sets this holiday apart from the others is the focus on gratitude!
It is the one day of the year that our culture encourages us to pause and be grateful for what we have. I hope that you were able to spend some time enjoying the many things you have to be grateful for yesterday. And I want to encourage you not to stop the gratitude there.
'Twas the Day After Thanksgiving
Our culture makes a huge shift from encouraging gratefulness, and the contentment that comes with gratitude, right after the holiday as we are thrown into the busy shopping season.
This year, consider how you can intentionally keep gratitude alive in your heart by establishing a gratitude practice. When you develop a simple gratitude practice you open yourself up to all kinds of health benefits.
The Benefits of Gratitude
Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, found that people who consistently practice gratitude report many physical, psychological and social benefits such as:
- Stronger immune systems
- Less bothered by aches and pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Exercise more and take better care of their health
- Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More alert, alive, and awake
- More joy and pleasure
- More optimism and happiness
- More helpful, generous, and compassionate
- More forgiving
- More outgoing
- Feel less lonely and isolated.
Brene Brown On Joy & Gratitude
Researcher Brene Brown has stated that “there is no joy without gratitude”. Listen as she discusses what her research taught her about the importance of establishing a gratitude practice. (Hint: she expected to find that joy led to gratitude, but found it was the other way around!)
How to Cultivate a Gratitude Practice
There are many things that you can do to create a practice of gratitude. The key is to establish habits that help you focus on something you are thankful for on a regular basis. It is important that these habits feel both fresh and authentic, so pick the one that feels right to you and switch it up as necessary.
- Create a gratitude journal.
- Write thank you cards or letters of affirmation to people in your life.
- Meditate on things you are grateful for each morning for 5 minutes.
- Help someone that doesn’t have all the advantages that you do.
- Find something to look forward to each week.
- Think about someone who has influenced your life and write them a letter.
- Pray to express thankfulness for the good things in your life.
- Choose one word that brings up feelings of gratitude (hope, life, family, friends, health, etc.) each day. Write the word down and think about it throughout the day.
- Listen to a song you enjoy and take time to really appreciate it.
- Practice mindful eating to really appreciate the gift of food.
- For more ideas check out 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.
Why Many People Don't Like Gratitude Practices
Thinking about gratefulness doesn’t seem to make sense when you are hurting. If life has been difficult recently, you may be struggling with all kinds of painful emotions. There is a reason you feel the way you do, and pushing these difficult emotions aside is not our goal.
In fact, denying our difficult emotions can actually have a negative effect on our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It is important to allow yourself to lean into these painful emotions and accept them without judgement.
Leaning into difficult emotions and not avoiding them can actually open you up to a whole new experience. According to Brene Brown, “mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.”
Since putting on a happy face and forcing gratefulness is not helpful in the long run, you may want to explore how to lean into “Authentic Gratitude in Difficult Times.”
Are you ready to establish a gratitude practice? Is there something holding you back from embracing this idea? I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on the matter.
P.S. Don’t forget to join us on facebook for “20 Days of Wellness” and a chance to win a $50 Visa gift card!