Gratitude: Not Just for Thanksgiving

thankfulness and gratitude aren't just for thanksgiving

We’ve discussed the importance of mindfulness at length. Especially today, implementing a mindfulness practice can be transformational for your mood and help prevent the impacts of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Gratitude reminds us of the positive things we have and distracts from those we don’t. This mindset goes hand-in-hand with mindfulness and can be an excellent strategy for your personal practice.

How can I implement a gratitude practice?

Start by thinking through the verbal “thank you”s you say throughout the day. As you go about your day, really think about it when you thank the person holding the door or bagging your groceries. Don’t just go through the motions of instinctually saying “thanks” without thinking about it. 

After some time observing, start pausing before vocalizing your thanks to really think through and name the gesture you’re thankful for.

At the end of the day, think about all the small things you were thankful for throughout the day, along with bigger blessings you want to appreciate. Consider using a gratitude journal to document what you’re thankful for and read back over it to remind yourself regularly.

By regularly journaling about the good things in life, you’ll be more prepared to weather rough patches when they come. It can be exciting at the end of each month or year to go back and review all the exciting things that happened to you. It’s easy to forget about some of the smaller great events if you don’t keep track.

Why practice gratitude?

Gratitude has a multitude of benefits for both mental and physical health. By focusing on the positives in life and not lingering on the negatives, many individuals find themselves far happier. Regularly practicing gratitude is also known to improve optimism and one’s outlook on the world. From a physical standpoint, individuals who express gratitude have been found to be more engaged in healthy physical activity.

Gratitude can have a significant impact on your romantic relationships. Consider when you may have recently received a gift that was “too much.” Did you rebuff it? Brush it off as unnecessary? What if, instead, you let it sink in and enjoyed it? 

In a study by Sara Algoe at UNC-Chapel Hill, researchers found that people who expressed gratitude during the study felt their relationships became stronger, more adaptable to change, and more positive throughout the 30-day study than those in the control group. By voicing gratitude, each partner is able to reaffirm that the other is a good romantic companion.

Practicing gratitude is good for humanity. Think about it. Each time a stranger thanks you for holding the door open, you get a mini incentive and you want to hold the door open again. Whereas when a stranger doesn’t thank you, you might be less likely to want to hold the door open next time. By regularly saying thank you and meaning it, you’re encouraging those small acts of kindness to continue.

thankgiving dinner

Gratitude and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a great time to make your gratitude practice a family activity. Talk through the importance of thankfulness and share some examples of your gratitude. Explore how you use gratitude in your daily activities and encourage your kids to see if they can do the same.

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