Happy Thanksgiving!!! (I know this is a day early, but you get the point.) How cliche is it for someone to tell you to be thankful during Thanksgiving? On a scale of one to ten, I would put in an eight at the very least. But sometimes, we need that reminder to be thankful for all the things we have going for us, especially when it feels like the universe has put us through the blender that last year. Changing your perspective into being thankful rather than looking at the negative can be challenging, but there are some benefits outside of the apparent positivity.
This is the first year that I won’t be home for Thanksgiving. Scratch that. This is the first year I won’t be near friends and family for my favorite holiday. I grew up in a giant family that would all get together over the most trivial reasons so that we could all hang out. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better childhood. I think that’s why Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Being surrounded by everyone I care about while getting to gorge myself on the most delicious food was always asking for a great time.
This year, I can’t afford to.
I’m writing this reminder to be thankful more for myself this year than anything, but maybe someone else could use the reminder too.
There are a bunch of studies that show being grateful increases your happiness. Based at the University of Berkley, Greater Good Science Center has a magazine whose goal is to give readers science-based insights for a meaningful life. Dr. Joshua Brown and Dr. Joel Wong wrote a piece on How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain. They go into how gratitude can unshackle us from toxic emotions and the lasting effects on our brains. And while being grateful is healthy, it takes time for the benefits to payout. It’s sort of like going to the gym. You won’t get overnight results, but you will see progress over time.
Cultivating Thankfulness and Gratitude
It feels like we live in a world where the main is to strive for what we don’t have. And while having goals is never a bad thing, we should take the time to realize and appreciate what we do have. Sometimes we need to refocus ourselves on what we have instead of what we are lacking.
- Thank you notes – Honestly, this is a simple way to express your gratitude to those in your life. You don’t have to write one to everyone you know but pick one person a month. Express the impact they’ve had on your life and how you are thankful for having them in your life. I don’t know about you but if someone in my life wrote me a letter like that I would treasure it until I died.
- Journaling – No, I don’t mean writing about your day at the same time every day. It would be a gratitude journal. Pick a time once a week to count your blessings. Reflect on the positive things in your life—what went right that week? You don’t need to write down everything. Instead, pick two or three things from the week and be as detailed as possible. (While this idea is excellent, it’s not for everyone. I’d be lucky to maintain a journaling habit for more than a week if the hyperfocus would last that long.)
- Meditation – Mindfulness meditation is another way to cultivate gratitude in your life. Mindfulness meditation is all about being focused on the present without any judgment or bias. People like to focus on peace, but you can alter it and focus on what you are grateful for in your life. Start by practicing mindfulness daily, and the rest will start to fall into place. It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself during the chaoticness that is our everyday lives. Daily mindfulness will lead to a change in perspective that will lead you to be grateful daily.
Giving Thanks and Being Grateful
It’s easy to remember what to be grateful for during the holiday season. But, it seems like the message of gratitude and thankfulness is shoved down our throats after we put away all the Halloween costumes, and they start to put up their Christmas decorations. It’s the other two months of the year that it’s hard to remember that being grateful can make our worlds just a little brighter.