Practicing Gratitude through the Holiday Season
With the Holidays fast approaching, this is a great time to start implementing some strategies to help you navigate this high-demand time of year. Gratitude is what the Thanksgiving holiday is all about. Practicing gratitude on a daily basis has many positive mental, physical and spiritual benefits.
Gratitude has been shown to:
- Improve your physical health. People who show gratitude report fewer aches and pains, a general feeling of health, more regular exercise, and more frequent checkups with their doctor than those who don’t.
- Improve your psychological health. Grateful people enjoy a higher sense of well-being and happiness, and suffer from reduced symptoms of depression.
- Improve your sleep. Practicing gratitude regularly can help you sleep longer and better.
- Increase mental strength. Grateful people have an advantage in overcoming trauma and experience enhanced resilience, helping them to bounce back from highly stressful situations. (Morin, 2014).
Easy ways to start a gratitude practice include:
*Start a Gratitude Journal- take 5 minutes when you first wake up or before bed to make a list of 10 things you are grateful for. Besides the benefit of zeroing in on the wonderful things you are grateful for, this practice has been proven to increase sleep quality, decrease symptoms of sickness, and increase happiness and joy (Marsh, 2011).
*Take a Daily Gratitude Walk- This exercise is easy to try out, and only requires your sense of gratitude and a pair of feet! The gratitude walk is a simple way to find the things you are grateful for in your life. Walking is therapeutic in itself. It has many health benefits such as increased endorphins that decrease stress, increased heart health and circulation in the body, decreased lethargy, and decreases in blood pressure. And we need daily continuous movement! Couple this healthy activity with a grateful state of mind and you are bound to nurture a positive mind and body (Rickman 2013). The goal of the gratitude walk is to observe the things you see around you as you walk. Take it all in. Be aware of the nature, the colors of the trees, the sounds the birds make, and the smell of the earth. Notice how your feet feel when you step onto the ground. Hopefully it will be easy to express gratitude for all the things that you are experiencing in the present moment.
*Gratitude Reflection- Reflection is an important part of mindfulness meditation and the cultivation of a sense of self-awareness. These practices can lead to an enhanced sense of well-being, among other benefits, although enhanced well-being is enough of a benefit for most of us!
To practice gratitude reflection, follow these steps:
- Settle yourself in a relaxed posture. Take a few deep, calming breaths to relax and center yourself. Let your awareness move to your immediate environment: all the things you can smell, taste, touch, see, hear. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”
- Next, bring to mind those people in your life to whom you are close: your friends, family, partner…. Say to yourself, “For this, I am grateful.”
- Next, turn your attention onto yourself: you are a unique individual, blessed with imagination, the ability to communicate, to learn from the past and plan for the future, to overcome any pain you may be experiencing. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.”
- Finally, rest into the realization that life is a precious gift. That you have been born into a period of immense prosperity, that you have the gift of health, culture and access to spiritual teachings. Say to yourself: “For this, I am grateful.” (Still Mind, 2014)
Combine these tips with your regular exercise or practice schedule for a Gratitude filled Holiday!
-Stephanie Manor, RYT