Later this month many of us in the US will gather with friends and family for a Thanksgiving feast. This holiday often inspires us to think about what we’re grateful for. Some families even go around the table and detail their list gratitudes — family, friendships, a roof over their heads, food in their bellies.
However, the holiday season isn’t always warm and fuzzy for everyone. Many experience feelings of loneliness, grief, loss, or depression around this time of year especially. One of the best ways to combat those not-so-warm feelings? Expressing gratitude. It may sound like a weird antidote, but numerous studies have shown a positive correlation between expressing gratitude and feeling happier in our lives and relationships.
I recently began taking note of my own gratitudes each day — my baby girl’s snuggle, a cozy bed to sleep in, a warm homemade matcha latte, a husband who supports and loves me, a new career that inspires me — and have found that the simple act of reflecting on and recording these gratitudes has been a rewarding experience.
Gratitude is good for your mental health
Psychologists have shown in controlled studies that those who focus on the gratitudes and positive aspects in their lives, compared to those who focus on the irritants, are happier overall. After 10 weeks of having two different groups write out either the positives or negatives of their weeks, they found that the group reflecting on the positives was not only happier and more optimistic, but they were even found to exercise more and visit the doctor less than those who focused on the negatives.
I’ve read that practicing gratitude can help to literally rewire our brains to bring about feelings of calm while attracting positivity into our lives. It’s literally the law of attraction. If you try to focus on gratitude – you’ll start to attract and focus on the positives in your life even more. Giving gratitude regularly has also been shown to help you focus on what really matters in life and can bring about more self-awareness in the process.
One of the best ways to practice gratitude is by starting your own gratitude journal. When you write things down, your brain supposedly reacts to the word you write as if you’re having a real experience in the moment. But if you don’t have the time to dedicate to this daily practice, there are so many ways to connect to your gratitude as a form of self-care.
Gratitude is good for your gut
That’s right. I share frequently about the connection between stress and candida overgrowth. Stress causes an inflammatory response in the body, which in turn can have a damaging effect on your gut health and immunity. Stress and inflammation are essentially the leading cause of most diseases and illnesses.
One of the best lifestyle shifts that one can make when healing their gut or strengthening their immune system is to find ways to prioritize self care and to de-stress. This can be done through physical acts like going for a walk, talking a bath, getting better sleep, etc. But one of the best mental self-care practices you can do is focus on the positives in your life and express gratitude.
Ways to cultivate & express gratitude in your own life
- Start a gratitude journal. Whether it’s writing 1-3 gratitudes in the morning to start your day off in a good headspace, or in the evening before bed to help reflect on and reframe your day through appositive lens, this practice is beloved by many.
- Write a thank you note. People don’t write or receive these enough! Writing one a week – whether a quick text to someone you love, or a handwritten letter in the mail — will make both you and them feel great.
- Meditate. Meditation for even 5 minutes a day focused on what you’re feeling grateful for can do wonders (And if you don’t have time to write that thank you note, try thanking someone mentally while you’re meditating!)
- Pray. Many people use prayer as a way to express their gratitude.
- Go for a walk. Ditch your phone, breathe the fresh air, move your body while you think about what makes you
- Share during a meal! Make it a daily practice to share your gratitude at the breakfast or dinner table with your family.
- Try an Instagram challenge and post an image of one thing a day that you’re grateful for.
- While driving to work, turn off the radio, ignore the road rage, and center yourself on what makes you happy.