According to an article on gratitude and wellbeing in the journal Psychiatry, “Gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; it is a general state of thankfulness and appreciation.” The holiday season lends itself to expressing gratitude, probably more so than any other time during the year. One regular practice my family engages in over the holidays is going around the dinner table and sharing things we are thankful for prior to eating. It is a tradition that everyone looks forward to, as it helps set the tone for the rest of the day. It redirects our focus onto what the day is all about - appreciation and gratitude.
Did you know when we practice an “attitude of gratitude,” not only do we encourage others but we reap the many benefits too? Research documents the positive impacts of gratitude on our health and well-being. For instance, Time Health identified the following benefits of gratitude:
- Gratitude can make you more patient.
- Gratitude might improve your relationships.
- Gratitude improves self-care.
- Gratitude can help you sleep.
- Gratitude may stop you from overeating.
- Gratitude can help ease depression.
- Gratitude gives you happiness that lasts.
This holiday season I challenge you to cultivate gratitude! Start by paying attention to the good around you, acknowledge it, and appreciate it. Like developing any routine, making gratitude a consistent practice may take time. Here are a few tips from AARP to get started:
- Celebrate your day before it begins. Before you get up, take a minute to reflect and identify a few of the things for which you are grateful.
- Give thanks sincerely and often. If someone shows you kindness, express a genuine ‘thank you’. Tell people how much you appreciate them and how much they mean to you.
- Appreciate the ‘negatives’ in your life. Obstacles and challenges help teach us resilience and make us more capable of overcoming bigger problems. When a ‘negative’ comes your way, try to think of it as an opportunity to practice gratitude (and patience)!
- Find a quote or phrase related to gratitude, and repeat it often. Commit it to memory and post it in places you will see it to remind yourself to celebrate what you have.
- Keep a journal. Select a notebook and record things for which you are grateful. Don’t like to write? Set a timer for one minute and splatter the page with everything that comes to mind and don’t stop until the timer is up! When you’re finished, you’ll be amazed at how many blessings belong to you.
- Reflect upon the good things before you go to sleep. Just as you begin your day as a celebration, end it the same way. By focusing on the good, you can reduce mental stress that contributes to sleeplessness.
Want to get the family involved in an ‘attitude of gratitude’? Make a ‘Gratitude Graffiti Wall’ by setting out a simple poster board and colorful sticky paper to record things for which you are grateful. You can also try a ‘Gratitude Jar’ by writing words of gratitude on a slip of paper each week (or day) and placing it into the jar – at the end of the year (or whenever you need a positive boost) empty the jar and count your blessings!
Remember, gratitude may be easier to practice during the holidays, so try to make it a habit that carries on throughout the rest of the year! As a last note, I will leave you with a quote by Maya Angelou that I think sums up the spirit of gratitude quite nicely, “This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before”. If you have any questions, call 330-264-8722.
Sara Meeks is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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