Updated: Feb 14, 2021
Why practicing thankfulness will help improve your mental wellbeing
While you may feel pressured to keep up with the “happiness” of this season, we know that holidays like Thanksgiving can be stressful. If you’re feeling the holiday blues, check out part 1 of this blog about coping with Thanksgiving stress during this unusually challenging year.
Amongst all of these new additional stressors this season, I would also like to invite you all to view this holiday as a time to stop, reflect, and to cultivate a new habit of giving thanks -- use this Thanksgiving as an opportunity to reflect and practice thanksgiving.
Why Giving-thanks benefits you and your mind
Your act of giving thanks helps you refocus your mind on what is good in your life. You are now more likely to appreciate the value and meaning of things and event around you. By being intentional about what you’re grateful for, your brain begins to notice and select your positive emotions and thoughts, which magnifies them and displaces your stress and anxieties. You’ll begin to value what you have and not focus on things you don’t have.
Many researchers have studied gratitude and have proven that giving thanks brings benefits to both your mind and body.
Having an attitude of gratitude...
Makes you feel happier and improves your overall emotional wellbeing
Benefits your physical health by enhancing your immune systems and lowering your blood pressure
Reduces your feelings of stress, loneliness, anxiety, and other negative emotions
Promotes your self-worth and fosters resiliency
Heightens your generosity, compassion, and empathy
Fosters deeper relationships with others
The benefits go on and on!
4 steps to Gratitude: Stop, Breathe, Think, & Give Thanks!
There are four quick steps to begin developing your habit of thankfulness:
Stop: Pause for a moment to really be in the present. Our days are packed with the business of our schedules. Simply pausing in your tracks will ground yourself and your thoughts.
Breathe: Take a deep breath to calm your body and mind down. Some people also try to meditate and control their breathing during this time.
Think: Take a few moments to reflect on the goodness that has happened to you in your day/ past week/ past month. Take as long as you need depending on how far back in time you are reflecting on.
Give Thanks: Start of by saying thank you. Expressing your feelings by saying words of praise and love out loud, or even share your thankfulness with your family or friends. Being grateful may involve thanking others, thanking the situation, thanking nature, and of course, thanking yourself too!
Each day, we encourage you to find three things in your day that you are thankful for. It can be a small as the weather being great, or receiving a thoughtful text from someone! Then prompt yourself to discover why you are grateful. Even going through this mental exercise for 5 minutes will bring benefits to your mind and body.
Gratitude takes practice. Make it a habit.
There are many different ways where you can start forming your habit of gratitude. Practicing gratitude may seem unnatural and even forced near the beginning of your journey, but the more you do it, the more you will pay attention to the things that bring you joy in your life. Gratitude will eventually come naturally and become a form of detox for your mind and body.
If you’re a writer, start journaling pen to paper in a notebook. Take some time to reflect on the highs and lows of your week and highlight some of the memories and experiences that you have been grateful for. But if you don’t have much time for journaling, start noting down all the blessings you have had this past year, both the big and the small. Create a thanksgiving list! What are things that have made you happy? Remember when you received a gift you loved from someone you loved even more? Unfortunately, many studies have shown that our minds are wired to more easily remember the bad things and forget the good things that have happened to us. Having this thanksgiving list reminds us of the goodness we have experience when times are rough. Add to this gratitude list as time goes on, and in no time, you’ll have a growing list that you’ll be able to look back and fully appreciate all your positive moments. You’ll be amazed at how many things you can remember but just aren’t on top of your head when you’re upset or stressed.
Having trouble coming up with things you are grateful for? We invite you to pause and self-reflect in a quiet place alone. Ask yourself, what do you take for granted? You woke up today, meaning that you have another chance to try something new, do the things you love, make amends with people you’ve hurt, help people in need and watch how happy they become when they get help from a stranger, find more meaning to your life, or just reflect on the happy memories and experiences that you’ve had.
Gratitude in 2020
This COVID-19 pandemic has been an incredibly stressful time for all of us and everyone is anxious about getting infected, but we need to look at it differently. It has been almost a year since the virus emerged and we’re still alive and awaiting vaccines with high effectiveness rates. That in itself is something to be thankful for. However, if you’ve unfortunately lost someone during to this pandemic, we give our sincerest condolences to you. It’s ok to not feel grateful, and we recognize your grief. But here’s a remind for you -- being thankful does not mean we ignore or suppress our pain. This can also a time to reshape and rebalance your perspectives and even perhaps bring back some feelings of hope and happiness during these challenging times; your lost one would want you to also live your lives and celebrate theirs.
You only live every moment once and our time is uncertain and not guaranteed. Live every moment to the fullest.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present”.
You may be going through a difficult time financially, socially, emotionally, academically, career-wise or any other way, but within a few years we’ll all be in a much better place mentally and everything will turn out great. Begin practicing giving-thanks this season and carry it forward in the rest of the year; your mental health will also thank you.