Nov 27, 2020
My refrigerator should now be packed full of turkey and leftovers. As in many households this year, there wasn’t a Thanksgiving feast at my house. Despite the cancellation this year of my family gathering, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. To me, it’s the perfect holiday.
I love when we go around the table and say a few things about why we are thankful. It’s an old-fashioned activity, and some people might think it’s hokey. But, I think it’s important to stop and remind ourselves of the good in our lives. I think it’s doubly important when life isn’t going so smoothly—as is definitely the case in 2020.
I heard an inspirational speaker once give the advice that, no matter how tight your budget is, you should always donate to charity—even if it’s a very small donation. Psychologically, he said, if you can afford to make a donation to someone else, then you will believe you have enough for your needs. This belief will make you feel better.
I don’t know if this speaker had any science to support what he was saying, but it made sense to me. I think gratitude and thankfulness have a similar affect. If you can look beyond the bad things in your life and find one or two good things, it will make things seem a bit better.
Several studies have shown that purposeful gratitude can have a positive impact on the quality of your life. Stopping and considering the good in your life, whether you keep a gratitude journal or just take a few quiet moments, can result in an improved mood.
Studies have been done and are ongoing that suggest that, not only does purposeful gratitude help you emotionally, but it might help you physically. Studies have indicated that people who feel grateful seem to sleep better and have better health habits (i.e., exercise more, use intoxicants less, eat more healthful diets). One study showed that a group that wrote in a gratitude journal for eight weeks showed decreased inflammation at the end of the experiment.
What is purposeful gratitude? Being purposeful in your gratitude is changing your mindset and developing the habit of being positive. Instead of wishing and thinking about the things you don’t have, you focus on what you do have.
Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.
- Write thank-you notes. We all get into the habit of saying things automatically. If someone asks how are you? How many times do you respond “fine, and you?” without the slightest thought? When we thank someone, is this sometimes an auto-response? Writing a thank-you note makes you think about why you are saying thank you.
- Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the positive things that have happened each day.
- Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write or think about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
There are many opportunities to complain throughout a normal day. But, with a little thought, many of our everyday complaints can become something to trigger gratitude. “I hate washing dishes” becomes “I have food to eat.” “I don’t want to fold the laundry” becomes “I have clothes to wear.”
Life isn’t perfect. It isn’t supposed to be perfect. And, sometimes it is really hard. But, it’s important to remember the good moments. The good moments will help us get through the bad.