We are officially entering the holiday season. It’s during this time that practicing gratitude can make the holidays even more meaningful. While this is easier said than done, especially for those who feel sad, anxious, or isolated during the holiday season, counting our blessings has many benefits that can ultimately lead to a happier lifestyle.
How can practicing gratitude lead to happiness?
A small shift in the way we think can make a big difference in our overall happiness. We often tend to get wrapped up in comparing ourselves to others, feeling stressed at work, wanting more in our relationships, etc.
There is nothing wrong with having a bad day, but when these feelings take over every aspect of our lives, we sometimes forget that there are things to be grateful for. What if we approached these areas with an appreciative attitude? Think about what I call "primary food" – how can we acknowledge the good in our career, relationships, spirituality, etc.
Studies have shown that practicing gratitude is associated with happiness and positive mental health. For example, one study found that couples who expressed gratitude for their partners experienced a more positive relationship and even felt more comfortable communicating concerns.
Practicing gratitude can influence our mind-set in various ways.
How to practice gratitude during the holiday season
Gratitude at mealtime –Enjoying meals with friends and family is one of the best parts of the holiday season. But we often dive right into eating before acknowledging the food on the table or the people around us. From being thankful for the flavors of the food to showing appreciation for the people who prepared it, take extra time during the holiday gatherings to slow down and express gratitude for the meal.
What I have noticed with my clients is that the practice of mindful eating creates a big mood shift. When we slow down to practice gratitude with what we are eating – where the food comes from and what a privilege it is to eat and enjoy it – we become more connected to ourselves and our community, which in turn results in a happier lifestyle.
Gratitude in relationships –Because gratitude can help lead to a positive mind-set, being grateful in our relationships, whether it’s with friends, family, or a significant other, can help improve communication, support, and overall value. Community is always important, but get-togethers can be stressful. Make it a point to express gratitude in relationships by sending a note of encouragement or performing a random act of kindness for a loved one.
Gratitude during alone time – While getting together with loved ones is important, taking time for yourself is equally essential during the holidays. To avoid burnout during the marathon of holiday gatherings, take time each day to write down a few things that you are grateful for in a gratitude journal. Making this a daily habit can increase positivity and help reduce stress during the holidays.
Taking time to reflect on what we’re grateful for can really help build confidence throughout our lives. The more we practice, the more we notice things to feel good about. It creates a mind-set of positivity that carries over to whatever life throws our way.