In this Thanksgiving and Holiday season, we are encouraged to give thanks and spread cheer. Though, we also know that the holidays represent, in reality, a time of distress for many people.
How can we survive the holidays and joyously emerge in the New Year? After the holiday rush, if someone is suffering, can instilling daily gratitude change their life? If someone feels content, can gratitude enhance happiness or even prevent depression?
I believe the answers are YES! In fact, the link between gratitude and decreased feelings of depression has been widely discussed and documented.
Change your Gr(attitude)
I believe another key lies in where we place our attention. It is sometimes easy to zero in on that which is bothersome or difficult, while ignoring all the reasons to be grateful. It is tempting to focus on the number of drinks Aunt Sally had, or the fact that Bob refused to attend the party this year rather than enjoying the 16 other pleasant and grateful guests. Or, we sometimes fret over not being able to afford the fancier toy or piece of jewelry while ignoring the bounty which enables us to give any presents at all.
If you or your family are a little on edge during this holiday season, try instilling a little daily gratitude. Try catching your spouse “being good.” Definitely catch your teenager “being good”. And make sure to express gratitude for those deeds. We need to seek out and express our gratitude, for our benefit and that of others.
How can we instill gratitude to improve our daily lives?
One recommendation is to start really young. In my family, we cap every day with a discussion of gratitude. I got this idea from my sister, who, many years ago disliked that her children would seem to quickly forget a fun-filled day that she had orchestrated. Rather than wanting thanks and acknowledgment, she wanted her children to appreciate and be grateful for the experiences and happy times together. Now teens, my niece and nephew still enjoy the quiet moments of gratitude at the end of each day with their parents. My own children now insist on and thoroughly enjoy saying their “gratefuls” each night. Wouldn’t you know it, we join in and express our gratefuls too.
Daniel Amen, in his book, “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life”, talks about how our positive thoughts create a beneficial neurochemical chain reaction just as our negative thoughts create, neurochemically speaking, more depressing thoughts and feelings. We are, in many ways, exactly what we think.
So, this holiday season, try a little Gratitude. Start a gratitude journal. Take the time daily to think about the good things in your life, especially if you are feeling low. Encourage yourself to increase positive thoughts, express gratitude for the gifts you do have this holiday season, and make sure to tell those you love. You just might find yourself grinning into the New Year.