Holiday Anxiety, Blues, Stress???? Practicing Gratitude will Get you Through!!!
This time of year can be one filled with joy, and also, triggering experiences and memories and a lot of grief. Instead of focusing on many of the trappings of the holiday season: the shopping, the music, the lights and parties, committing to a daily gratitude practice can help shift places of pain and sorrow into ones of healing and acceptance. Taking time during the holidays to notice, contemplate, and express gratitude for everything in your life can make your holidays more meaningful. Because gratitude is a supportive emotion, if you are struggling with travel, family disagreements or disappointments, the practice of gratitude can help you cope.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is an affirmation of the good things in your life that come from inside you, or outside you. It is a state of mind, one that helps you to notice the world around you more intimately, and with more positivity.
Whether it’s the sight of a child, a beautiful mug of tea, a delicious taste of food, an appreciation of a wonderful scent (lavender, anyone?) or the awareness of good health, there is always something in every moment to be grateful for, if we can just be mindful to find it and acknowledge it. Even bad experiences can teach us something! Gratitude is not just a feeling that descends upon you as though out of the sky--it’s more like a streaming channel that you can turn on at will.
Gratitude acknowledges connection to the world and others. When we contemplate our place in the entire network of life in this universe, we feel great wonder. That realization can lead us to express gratitude.
What are the Benefits of Gratitude?
Gratitude is widely known to be connected to mental health and life satisfaction. Grateful people experience more joy, love, and excitement, and they enjoy protection from destructive emotions like envy and greed. Practicing gratitude also reduces the risk of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders, and it can offer people who struggle with these an opportunity to heal. Not only that, but people who practice gratitude cope better with stress, recover more quickly from illness, and enjoy more robust physical health, including lower blood pressure and better immune function.
What is a Gratitude Practice?
Think of gratitude as something you practice, like meditation or yoga. The very best time to begin this practice is when you first awaken in the morning. Are you warm and comfortable? Will you have food to eat, socks for your feet, water to drink, electricity?
Gratitude practice begins by paying attention. Notice all the good things you normally take for granted. Did you have a good night’s sleep? Did someone at the grocery store smile at you or do something kind? Have you noticed the quality of light today, or the sun or color of the clouds? We can also acknowledge that difficult and painful moments are instructive and you can be grateful for them as well. Directing our attention this way removes feeling like a victim.
Consider keeping a gratitude journal. By writing, you can magnify and expand on the sources of goodness in your life, and think about what resources you’ve gained from your experiences, even bad ones. Try getting a journal just to write things you are grateful for, and writing 5 things you are grateful for before going to bed and when waking up in the morning.
“In one study, people randomly assigned to keep weekly gratitude journals exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to people assigned to record hassles or neutral events. In another, young adults who kept a daily gratitude journal reported higher alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to those who focused on hassles or compared themselves to others less fortunate.”
In an often difficult and stressful time of year, expressing gratitude can create a feeling of connection-to the self, and others. Taking time each day to offer gratitude for different elements in your life can make this time of year a powerful, and joyful, one. Try it this month and let us know in the comments what your experience is! Or give us a call to make an appointment to discuss your life and health in person at our York County office! (207) 200-3113.
Chowdhury, Madahleena, BA. November 19, 2019.The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How it Affects Anxiety and Grief. https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/