By Soji James, CPT, CSCS
The leaves are changing, pumpkins and colorful mums are everywhere, and Thanksgiving will be here before you know it! Are you feeling gratitude? You may be excited to visit with long-distance family members and friends. Get ready to enjoy a delicious and indulgent meal (not to mention all those tasty leftovers from the main event!). And no matter how much we may love our work, few of us will argue with a couple of days of rest and relaxation at home.
On the other hand, you may anticipate the coming holidays with a growing sense of trepidation. Maybe you’re not incredibly enthused about spending time with a relative whose dinner table comments make you feel defensive and judged. Or perhaps you’re just anxious about the temptation to overindulge from now until past New Year’s. High-calorie seasonal treats seem to be available everywhere, while your healthy snacks are out of reach. (Why are those peppermint-mocha lattes with whipped cream so good?) With everything you have going on in your professional and personal life, will you find time to shop for gifts? Sometimes it seems like too much.
If the holiday season makes you feel “too stressed to be blessed,” so to speak, you’re far from alone. Today, I’ll tell you a little more about the benefits of taking the time to feel gratitude. Don’t just feel it, but express gratitude this Thanksgiving—and throughout the year. With a few simple adjustments to your mindset and daily behavior, you’ll feel more thankful than a turkey who’s just received a presidential pardon (whew!).
You probably know someone who practices daily gratitude affirmations. Some people record all the things they are thankful for in a special journal. Others take a moment each night to give thanks to a higher power, or make some time for gratitude meditation. Expressing gratitude is so deeply personal that no one can tell you exactly what will work best for you. But I’ll take you through several proven methods for focusing on gratefulness.
You may feel a bit skeptical about incorporating this kind of practice into your own life. If that’s the case, check out these 7 scientifically proven benefits of giving thanks on a regular basis. People who consistently remember to give thanks for all they have, report better physical and psychological health and longer and better sleep. In fact, gratitude actually changes your heart and brain for the better—great reasons to say “Thank you!” to the world at large.
Here’s some good news: you don’t have to be an expert to commit to making gratitude meditation a key part of each day. It’s something you can do easily in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Plus, you can get started as soon as you’ve finished reading this post! Here are three gratitude meditation routines, each a little different. You may want to experiment with each one. Then decide which one leaves you feeling happiest and most thankful when you’ve concluded. I’d recommend you avoid trying to do all three in a row, so that you can evaluate each one separately, with a clear head. Spread them out over three evenings before you decide.
You may have noticed yourself focusing too much on the negative. Gratitude meditation that specifically acknowledges your gripes and reminds you that you’re blessed may speak to you best. For example, you may think:
I’m really concerned about gaining a lot of weight this holiday season.
You can sit with that thought for a moment, and then add:
I’m so fortunate that I always have enough to eat and that I’m invited to parties with my loved ones and colleagues. They are so generous in preparing homemade goodies.
Or here is another example:
I have so many gifts to buy. The stores are always so crowded at this time of year, and it gets to be expensive so quickly.
You can follow that with:
I’m so fortunate that I have so much love in my life. So many wonderful people who will appreciate the gifts I choose for them. I’m blessed that I can afford to do this every year.
See? It’s even easier than you thought.
The relationship between gratitude and health can work both ways. As I’ve discussed here, being consistently grateful has wonderful benefits for your physical and emotional health. And, likewise, spend a few minutes on a couple favorite self-care rituals. Try taking a hot bath or diffusing a favorite relaxing essential oil before bed. These rituals can help you to feel more relaxed and thankful for the good day you’ve had. I can’t emphasize this enough: self-care habits are not indulgences that you “deserve” only if you’ve gotten out of bed without hitting the snooze button or if you’ve reached a weight-loss goal you’ve set for yourself this month. You don’t need to feel guilty about taking a few minutes each day to do some simple, nice things for yourself. These rituals are a vital part of keeping you healthy and happy.
And while we’re on the very important subject of taking good care of yourself, take a look at these 6 healthy habits that will keep you feeling energized and balanced throughout the holiday season and into the new year—maybe even while shopping on Black Friday! (Although scoring Cyber Monday deals from your couch may be a better choice for preserving your mellow mood.)
If we’re being honest, most of us will admit that it isn’t always easy to hit the sheets at night feeling grateful for what’s going on in our lives. Stress, unfortunately, is a natural part of being human. On some days, it seems to come from every possible direction—work, family, friends, finances, you name it. It can be especially challenging to get back on track after the holidays.
If you can devote just a few minutes of each day to thinking about the blessings in your life, however, you’ll benefit from it in more ways than you can count. This positive and thankful mindset will carry you through the holiday season and into another wonderful, productive, and happy year. Have a grateful day and a wonderful holiday season, and remember to say “Thank you!”