We know of Thanksgiving as the holiday of shoveling mounds of turkey, stuffing, and pie into our mouths but it is also about being thankful. Gratitude is a practice that can do wonders for your mood, your outlook on life and your overall happiness when embraced year-round. There is always something in your life to be thankful for, you just have to identify it.
Shifting Your Focus To Joy
So much of the time we focus on the bad things going on. We fall into the realm of feeling like a victim even if the bad only took up a small portion of the day. For example, you were late to work and your boss yelled at you and you spent the whole day feeling bad about it. But, hey today you still have a job, the sun was shining, you are healthy…there is always something.
Practicing gratitude shifts our brains from the negative to the positive. It forces us to change gears in our thinking, making us feel better overall. We frequently encourage clients to use gratitude journals to help their brains make the shift. Every day we encourage you to write down one thing, or more, that you are grateful for. It can be the smallest victory or the biggest challenge you have overcome. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering.
Appreciating What Is Good
Science stands behind this theory of gratitude making a real difference in our lives.
Showing gratitude to others by saying “thank you,” or “I greatly appreciate it” not only makes the other person feel good, but it can also open the doors to forming new relationships. People who are appreciative and who recognize the sacrifices or efforts of others come across as kind, respectful individuals. It is why after a job interview, it is recommended to send a thank you note.
Regularly recognizing the things in your life you are grateful for, gives you an appreciation for your health, your body, and your life as a whole. People who practice gratitude have fewer aches and pains and take better care of themselves, according to a 2012 study published in Psychology Today.
Reducing Negative Emotions
Gratitude reduces negative emotions like envy, frustration, and regret. People who are thankful for the hand they have been given, for the challenges they have faced are happier and experience less depressive symptoms. It also helps people to sleep better and have greater self-confidence. If you feel good about who you are, and aren’t spending so much time thinking about the bad things in your life, you are going to feel better.
It also increases empathy and reduces aggression. A University of Kentucky study showed that people who reported higher feelings of gratitude were less likely to retaliate against others, even in unfortunate circumstances, and were more likely to be sensitive to those around them.
The powerful shift in the way you think about things when you change from being a victim to being grateful—you know, the cup is half full instead of half empty—fosters resilience. Studies have shown it reduces symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and helps trauma victims to heal.
So, instead of focusing on gratitude during November, make it part of your daily practice. Even the smallest of changes in the way we think about things can help us to lead happier lives.
Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.