The Thanksgiving holiday can mean lots of things to lots of people. To some, it means traveling home to be with family. It might mean breaking out old recipes to cook, or dredging up old stories to retell around the table. For others, it might mean joining a significant other’s family dinner - meeting new relatives and learning new traditions. For some, it might mean cooking with friends, or even scrapping the kitchen altogether and dining out.
Whatever your holiday means this year, it is bound to revolve around the notion of thankfulness. If someone were to ask you over a plate of turkey and gravy what you are thankful for, you could probably muster up a response - and many of us do. But what does being thankful mean to you year-round?
Recent studies show that feeling sincere gratitude is actually good for us. It might be pretty obvious that gratefulness can improve one’s mental health, but it can also lead to better overall health. According to research led by Paul Mills, people who are grateful also show significant improvement in heart wellness - including reduced risk for heart disease.
Some experts say that people are not born with the ability to be grateful though - it takes practice. The key to this practice comes in three stages: recognizing what you’re grateful for, acknowledging it, and appreciating it. So aside from a carefully crafted Turkey Day response, how can you practice these steps the other 364 days of the year?
Here are a few helpful ideas to get you started:
Keep a gratitude journal. Even if you only write down one or two things a day, this habit can greatly reduce any stress levels you may have. It can also help to reverse any bad days you might have, and keep things in perspective for you.
Distract yourself. If you find yourself focusing your attention on something negative that upsets you, find something around you that pleases you. Whether it’s a painting on the wall, the perfect blend of cream and sugar in your coffee at the moment, or a song playing through the speakers, force your mind to concentrate on it.
Pass it on. Try to give at least one compliment a day. Answer the phone with genuine enthusiasm. Smile when you greet family or coworkers in the morning. By exhibiting an outward appearance of gratitude, it will help you remind yourself to feel grateful.
Keeping gratitude and thankfulness present in your life will not only improve your physical and emotional health, but it can strengthen your relationships. But gratitude doesn’t always come naturally so start making it a habit now. Instead of naming one thing you’re thankful for this holiday, list three. Then list three more the next day. See how far you can get, and see how living a life of gratitude and appreciation can be transformative.