Thanksgiving is the holiday of turkey, stuffing, and visiting family. But it is also the holiday of giving thanks. And how appropriate that is--because a holiday that has the risk of bringing on a fair amount of stress (crowded airports, jammed traffic, and difficulties with family, just to name a few) also provides the perfect antidote—gratitude.
Studies have strongly and consistently associated gratitude with greater happiness, feelings of wellbeing, and stress relief.
Gratitude is defined as the emotion of appreciation for what you have in your life. Gratitude emphasizes what we currently have, not what we lack, and relaxes the part of our brain that is always reaching for something new to seemingly make life better.
According to Harvard Medical School, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
The great thing about feeling grateful is that nothing needs to change about your life. You can literally start feeling grateful this second. You don’t need to get a gym membership, change your eating habits, or change your work schedule to feel grateful.
Gratitude—and by association, happiness and stress relief--can happen right here, right now. Here is how…
Take a moment to think about your day. Find three things you are grateful for, and maybe even write them down. They don’t have to be big. Maybe its gratitude for your comfortable, warm bed. Perhaps you focus on your able, moving body or the fact that you have warm clothes to wear as the weather gets colder. Maybe its something small, like an aromatic cup of coffee in the morning.
Set a timer on your phone for anywhere from 20 seconds to five minutes. Close your eyes and focus on these three things that you feel grateful for. Notice how you feel in your body as you pay attention to some of the characteristics named on your list, such as warmth, comfort, or certain smells. Feel the impact these thoughts have on softening your muscles, breath, and facial expression.
Disclaimer: feeling grateful does not mean denial of the things that are not working well in your life, or pretending like you are not struggling. The act of feeling grateful is just enabling a small amount of your mental and emotional energy to focus on what is working well right now.
Give it a try. And although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.
Wishes for a peaceful Thanksgiving holiday.
Dr. Ayelet Krieger is a licensed clinical psychologist and certified yoga teacher who is dedicated to helping you live mindfully to beat stress and maximize joy. Click here to learn about services offered at Oasis Therapy Center and click here to schedule your free consultation.