This time of year brings us comfort food, family time, and holiday traditions. It’s the season that reminds us to vocalize what we are grateful for, from our health, to our families, to the bounty of food set on the table in front of us. While this a wonderful time to count our blessings and thank the people who mean so much to us, we could benefit from practicing gratitude all year long!
According to Dr. Robert Emmons, leading scientific expert on gratitude, this involves acknowledging that there is goodness in the world and that their sources are outside of ourselves. Whether you keep a gratitude journal, pay it forward, or take time to stop and smell the roses, there are many ways to practice gratitude. These small actions can make a big impact on your overall well-being. Researchers have found that gratitude can increase happiness, satisfaction with life, and resilience to stress. Experts at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley explain that gratitude boosts our feelings of self-worth, keeps us connected to others, and helps us focus on the more positive aspects of life. In turn, we are happier and better equipped to deal with negative life experiences.
Practicing gratitude helps us “get over ourselves,” so to speak. While we at BodiMojo are big advocates of mindfulness, or turning our attention to our inner thoughts and feelings, we also acknowledge the power in reaching outward to deepen connections, reflect, and gain perspective. According to Dr. Emmons, “In gratitude and humility we turn to realities outside of ourselves. We become aware of our limitations and our need to rely on others. In gratitude and humility, we acknowledge the myth of self-sufficiency. We look upward and outward to the sources that sustain us.”
Take a look around the Thanksgiving dinner table this year, and it’ll be easy to spot a checklist of things you’re grateful for: family, friends, a roof over your head, freedom, safety, health, pumpkin pie. The challenging part is to practice gratitude when you’re having a bad day, when you’ve gotten a flat tire, a failing grade, or a terrible headache and just want to rattle off everything that went wrong. But Dr. Emmons says that these are the times when we may need to practice gratitude most. Says Emmons, “When faced with adversity, gratitude helps us see the big picture and not feel overwhelmed by the setbacks we’re facing in the moment… that attitude of gratitude can actually motivate us to tackle the challenges before us. Without a doubt, it can be hard to take this grateful perspective, but research suggests it is possible, and it is worth it.”
- Keep a daily gratitude journal and list 1-3 things you are grateful for (be specific!)
- Send a note to someone who helped you but you haven’t had a chance to say “thanks”
- Ask family members go around the dinner table and list one thing they are thankful for
- Enlist a gratitude buddy to share the little things you appreciate in your day
- Take time in nature and behold the wonders before you
- Pay it forward with a small act of kindness
This Thanksgiving, make a special effort to thank those you love, those who helped prepare the food you’ll enjoy, and those who celebrated with you. Maybe even be grateful for the stomachache or food-coma you might experience afterwards. Just make sure the gratitude doesn’t stop there.
Great Talks on Gratitude
Remember to Say Thank You Laura Trice (Ted Talk video)
Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. Louie Schwatzberg (Ted Talk video)
Gratitude and Gladness: 4 Steps Rick Hanson