The holiday stress of shopping, travel, decorating, cooking, and hosting are enough to keep you in a state of perpetual motion. So it’s no surprise that many people forget to pause and practice gratitude during this busy time of year. But doing so can go a long way toward enhancing your enjoyment of the festive season.
The Science Behind Gratitude
Research studies over twenty years have provided increasingly compelling evidence that practicing gratitude can improve a person’s overall well-being. Physically, those with consistent gratitude practices sleep better, feel less fatigue, have lower blood pressure, and decreased stress responses (i.e. cortisol). Their brain chemistry is also thought to be affected, specifically increases of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.
These neurotransmitters play important roles in emotions and social behavior.
Emotionally, research suggests that individuals who practice gratitude are less likely to experience burnout or to be depressed or anxious. They’re also more likely to report greater life satisfaction, close relationships with others, better decision-making/judgment, and resilience during times of difficulty. Who wouldn’t want more of these qualities during the holidays?!
The Challenge of Practicing Gratitude
Like most things that are good for you, practicing gratitude is deceptively easy. Most people find engaging in gratitude relatively easy. It’s doing so consistently that’s the challenge. With the demands of modern life, it’s easier to rationalize staying late at work to send those emails than than taking 5, 10, or even 15 minutes to practice gratitude. But practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be time-consuming.
Here are some ways you can practice gratitude during the holidays that are easy to do.
Give thanks, a compliment, or smile.
Maybe this one is significant to me because I live in Miami, one of the top 2 rudest cities in the US. Having manners and being generally friendly here are as foreign as the city’s melting pot of residents. So saying thank you and treating others with general kindness will go along way not only for you, but also the other person. It’s especially true during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
It can be your time, food, toys, or things you no longer need. Serve food at a food bank one afternoon or visit a home for the elderly. Sign up to take animals at a local shelter for a walk. There are many charitable organizations in need of volunteers or resources to help others who are struggling.
Pay it forward.
Perform a random act of kindness. Buy the person behind you their drink or meal. Let the elderly man or frazzled mom with kids in line ahead of you.
Reflect on the past year.
Take 5 minutes a day to reflect on and appreciate the things that you’ve achieved this year. Consider the things or situations that have gone in your favor. Don’t forget to explore this year’s disappointments and difficult situations. What have you learned from them? How have experiences changed you for the better? Don’t forget to be grateful for the lessons of difficult situations you might not otherwise have learned.
Appreciate what you have.
It’s easy to focus on what you want with all the Black Friday sales and holiday marketing. Instead, make a list of what you’re grateful for using the letters of the alphabet. These can be people, things, or experiences you’ve had over the year.
One of the things people commonly say to me is that they feel awkward or weird about practicing gratitude. They worry that they’ll stand out or be made fun of somehow. If that’s you, ask someone you trust and is like-minded to join you if you’re volunteering somewhere. Encourage family members to share one thing they’re grateful for over dinner each night over the holidays. Or maybe exchange your Alphabet of Appreciation with them.
Hopefully this post has inspired you to start practicing gratitude over the holidays. Remember that what you choose to do or how long it takes to do doesn’t matter. Just do it consistently and see how you feel by the end of the year. Maybe having a gratitude practice is something you can incorporate into your daily life in the upcoming new year.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at Envision Wellness. We’re grateful for all the people that trust us with their well-being. If you’d like our support, you can call us at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult .