By Christa Banister
It happens earlier and earlier each year. Carved pumpkins grace the porch. Kids haven’t even separated the Good & Plenty and Almond Joy from the Snickers and Twix, and the barrage of ads begins, the ones that conveniently skip over Thanksgiving.
Like regularly strengthening a muscle, being content and pursuing gratitude provides long-lasting benefits of noticing the good in small moments.
It’s hard not buying into the hoopla when you’re promised a bigger, better holiday season if you shop now. After all, nothing says Christmas better than a Lexus with a big red bow on top, right?
When we’re sold a false bill of goods, it’s easy for contentment to take a back seat. Which is why cultivating a habit of practicing gratitude has never been more crucial. Or timely. Research shared by Mindful.org has shown that it’s good for your physical and mental health in a myriad of ways, plus focusing on things to be thankful for improves our relationships.
Like regularly strengthening a muscle, being content and pursuing gratitude provides long-lasting benefits of noticing the good in small moments. According to research gathered by the Aspen Brain Institute, it is proven to transform the brain.
Wondering where to begin? Here are seven practical suggestions:
- Reframe the Holidays
Ever notice how many holiday songs are tinged with sadness? For many people, it’s a pressure-packed reminder of broken relationships and past disappointments. Instead of prioritizing the “perfect” occasion, consider reframing it with gratitude. Who has made a tangible difference in your life? Tell them in person, or send a note or e-mail. Gratitude is proven to help people feel more positive, healthy, and satisfied.
- Less Stuff, More Memories
Most people don’t need another coffee mug, candle, or random gift set. GoodTherapy.org says stuff rarely brings lasting contentment, but what people do remember are thoughtful gestures. Pay for a friend’s dinner next time you’re out. Volunteer together to help a cause you both appreciate. Give the gift of a road trip. Offer to babysit friends’ kids so they can have a night out.
- Write It Down
With bad news often grabbing all the headlines, it’s never been more important to take note of what’s good in the world. Whether you kick it old-school with a pen and notebook, or type into your phone or computer, setting a few minutes aside each day to write down who and what you’re thankful for in a gratitude journal is therapeutic, says Harvard Health Publishing. It’s also a dose of good news you can look back on when you’re going through a difficult season.
- Take It All In
Pause for a minute and enjoy all the incredible sights and sounds of the season. Whether it’s a dazzling light display, a cup of rich hot chocolate, the piney scent of a fresh-cut tree, a beautiful rendition of “Silent Night,” or watching the first snowfall, engaging your senses can’t help but stir up feelings of gratitude and contentment.
- Say Thank You (and Mean It)
If you grew up in an environment where saying thank you was expected, the sentiment may ring hollow after a while. As you learn to practice gratitude for even little acts, saying thank you to someone opening a door, offering a hand with groceries, or picking up something you dropped will take on new meaning as you’re more present in the moment.
- Keep Your Social Media Positive
As you’re being mindful of things to be thankful for, gratitude is a message worth sharing. Find your way to express it authentically online. Maybe it’s a quote from a book that meant something to you. A snapshot from a place that really wowed you, or a selfie featuring a friend you enjoyed reconnecting with. Sharing something good is a unique, dynamic way to remind each other there’s so much to be grateful for. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the one to help positivity go viral.
- Find Gratitude in Life’s Challenges
While it may sound counterproductive, remembering your struggles or negative experiences actually helps to underscore what you have to be thankful for. Gratitude isn’t only about celebrating positive experiences; it can also be about how you’ve survived, thrived, and moved forward when life wasn’t going your way.
While it may sound counterproductive, remembering your struggles or negative experiences actually helps to underscore what you have to be thankful for.
Let us Help You
If you find yourself struggling to be thankful, let alone happy, even after trying to make some of these changes, we at The Meadows are here for you. Sometimes, there is more going on beneath the surface than you realize, and that can keep you from experiencing life at its fullest. We care about your mental health and would love to come alongside you to provide you with the tools you need to overcome whatever is holding you back. Reach out today to learn more.