✨’Tis the Season for Gratitude✨
It’s hard to believe that we are already entering the Holiday Season, with Thanksgiving just days away. Holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate with family and friends and are often accompanied by delicious food, much-needed time off from work, travel, shopping for special gifts for your loved ones, classic holiday movies, baking, and many more fun, meaningful activities and traditions.
But the Holidays can also bring “stuff” up and be quite challenging for many people. Your excitement for the Holiday Season may depend on what the holiday signifies to you, what memories are attached to it, what challenges or changes you are going through in life, and with whom. Perhaps your only wish this year is to get through the dang holidays and start a fresh, brand new year.
While life is BOTH joyful and heartbreaking, sometimes simultaneously, Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to show gratitude. Gratitude is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as “the feeling or quality of being grateful.” (1) Grateful is “showing or expressing thanks, especially to another person.”(2)
Gratitude is a way of being and seeing the world that deepens over time and with practice. Gratitude allows us to connect more deeply with ourselves and each other. Conveying gratitude doesn’t mean we gloss over the tough times or ignore the growing pains of life, but rather look to gratitude as a means of acknowledging someone or something for what they have done to improve our quality of life. It is a chance to whole-heartedly give back (and thus multiply) some of the joy, love, compassion, and abundance gifted to us! Gratitude can be a bridge from the dark to the light. And sometimes, in the search for gratitude, we find it in the places we least expect it.
Plenty of research is out there to back up the benefits of gratitude. According to an article from Harvard Medical School:
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. (1)
Well, my friends, ‘tis the Season for Gratitude, and without further ado, here are five concrete ways to cultivate gratitude and thanksgiving this Holiday Season and beyond, no matter where you are in life:
1. Go outside and connect with nature. Sit under a tree, walk barefoot in the grass (please remember your shoes if it’s cold outside😉), watch the sunrise or sunset, take a hike, spend time in the forest, sit by a stream, get lost in the stars, feel the wind on your face, and give thanks for your life (out loud or quietly). One of the best ways to connect and revitalize the spirit of gratitude is to spend time outdoors in the comforting embrace of Mother Nature.
2. Write a Gratitude List. Sit down, take out a sheet of blank paper, grab a pen, and get writing. Make a list of anything and everything you can think of that you are grateful for. Don’t edit or censure anything. Remember to list the often overlooked, minute details of everyday life. Nothing is too big or small. Keep writing until you run out of steam, simmer, and see if anything is left to say. When you are complete, take three deep breaths into the space of appreciation surrounding you.
3. Keep a Gratitude Journal for a month. Set a timer for two minutes or more, and create an entry full of all you are grateful for every day. If you are on a roll, don’t stop at two minutes. At the end of the month, read through all of your entries and why you were grateful. Acknowledge yourself for giving thanks, and lean into the power of thanksgiving you’ve created.
4. Take time to reflect over the past year and write down five specific events or people who have supported you through their words, actions, love, gestures, etc., and write them a thank you card! Express exactly how their presence and actions have contributed to your betterment. Be kind and generous in your thanksgiving.
5. Donate your time or monetary donations to a local community organization or food bank in need during the Holidays. Foster the holiday spirit of gratitude by supplying your neighbors with food, support, clothing, shelter, etc., and grow the beauty of grace and community outward from your backyard into the world!
With all of the benefits that go along with the practice of gratitude, including reducing stress, improving quality of life, deepening and mending relationships (the list goes on and on), we are, when you really think of it, poised at a beautiful threshold of thanksgiving opportunity; a chance to make impactful actions and have meaningful conversations, with ourselves and each other. Thanksgiving Gratitude is knocking on the door. Will you answer it?
(1): Gratitude. 2023. In dictionary.cambridge.org/us/. Retrieved November 20, 2023 from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/gratitude
(2): Grateful. 2023. In dictionary.cambridge.org/us/. Retrieved November 20, 2023 from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/grateful
(3): Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. “Giving thanks can make you happier.” Aug. 2021. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier