‘Tis the season for gratitude! With the fall harvest in, and Thanksgiving just days away, it’s nice to take a moment to give thanks for all the blessings and growth you’ve received this year. It’s also a great time to think about what you’d like the coming year to be like. Hopefully growing in gratitude is part of that.
Appreciate has two meanings: to be thankful and to increase in value. These two things go hand in hand. You can’t feel and express gratitude without it increasing and coming back to you. It’s also an important part of creating a happy lifestyle.
Positive psychology research has proven that expressing gratitude leads to the following benefits:
- improves overall well-being
- make people more agreeable and open
- increases life satisfaction and decreases depression
- improves relationships by creating a more forgiving nature, enhancing connection and satisfaction
- promotes relationship formation and maintenance
- reduces stress, cortisol levels, and increases heart coherence
So how do you create a lifestyle of gratitude so that you can have all these wonderful benefits? Here are some ideas.
Write a Gratitude Letter
The gratitude letter is something that has been studied over and over. Writing a gratitude letter makes the recipient feel good, but it makes the writer feel even better! In fact, the benefits last for about 30 days!
Here’s how you do it. Think of someone who has done something important or nice for you whom you haven’t acknowledged. This can be your boss, neighbor, family member, friend, or even someone you don’t know very well. Think about what this person did and how it impacted you. Write about it from the heart. Be specific.
Personalize it. Maybe you can write it out in your own hand. Or perhaps you choose pretty stationery. Some have framed it. You want to make it special.
Now present it. Perhaps you can go for coffee or lunch. Read it to the person before you give it to him or her. This makes it more of an event that honors what they did. You may be surprised at how moving it is for you and them. Such a small thing can be so healing and bonding. Try it.
Here are some other ideas:
- start each morning with acknowledgement, like a gratitude prayer
- end each day with a dinner time ritual of sharing the high for the day with someone
- each day write something that you are grateful for and put it in a jar. Take them out and look at them when things aren’t going so great.
- write in a gratitude journal daily. Use a bulleted lists, sentences, or paragraphs.
- when things aren’t going great, stop your thoughts and think of something that you can appreciate. For example, if you just got into a car accident, you might think, “I am so happy no one was hurt.” If you got passed over for a promotion at work, you can think, “I am thankful to have been interviewed.” When you focus on the silver lining, disappointments don’t take you so low.
- when you are with loved ones, give each person a chance to acknowledge the gifts that each person brings to the world. It’s an incredible bonding exercise
- make a gratitude tree. It’s like an Angel tree. Instead of taking a tag with a wish on it, you write down the things you are grateful for and decorate the tree with your blessings. This is particularly nice if it’s in a place like a business, dorm, or public space where lots of people contribute to it. Blessings are contagious. When you read or hear about what others have received, the happiness is shared.
As you are acknowledging your blessings, don’t censor yourself. Don’t say or write what you think you are “supposed to.” If you are thankful for your car, good looks, or boyfriend, say that! Make it come from the heart. Keep it real.
The holidays are rough for so many people. They can bring back old grudges. Family obligations can put you into contact with people that you don’t like or who haven’t been very nice to you. Holiday stress and travel can make you cranky. Getting out of your routine, eating and drinking too much can make you feel not your best. “Tis the season for gratitude! Stay focused on what it’s all about and perhaps this year will be different. Try it and let me know how it goes.