A Gift to Give this Holiday Season: Gratitude
In a year like this one, it can be hard to remember you have things to be thankful for. Many of us will spend this Thanksgiving without our loved ones whether through distance or loss, and being told to give thanks might feel like a bitter pill to swallow.
As small as it may seem, stepping back to practice gratitude can help us to take stock of all that we do have, and maybe even end the year on a positive note. In a year that’s been trying for everyone, getting into the habit of thankfulness is a more useful habit than ever. Besides an improved and happier outlook, gratitude can kick start its own positive feedback loop.
When a Harvard literature review looked at research on gratitude, they found a correlation between a grateful attitude and general well-being. Often this thankful outlook is thought of in terms of the here and now. However, it is just as important to remember and practice when reflecting on the past and looking forward to the future.
Think of gratitude like a spice you have on the shelf. You can throw it in almost any main course to add a subtle pop to the other flavors (paprika’s my go-to). Whether it’s at work or in your relationships, remembering what you’re grateful for and saying “Thank you” goes a long way.
While you might have to miss your office party this year, work is another example of where gratitude showcases its benefits. Supervisors who showed their appreciation helped retain employees and coworkers who expressed thanks among one another improved their team dynamics.
After all, when we look back on the jobs we’ve had, we tend to define them through the people we were with at the time. By showing gratitude now, we increase the chance that we’ll be able to look back on those moments in our careers in a positive light. And that will help maintain a happier outlook going forward. Feedback loop in action!
Or, maybe there are other positive habits you want to start building up. It also turns out that practicing gratitude sets you on the road to achieving those goals, too, whether you want to improve your sleep (which also helps regulate negative emotions), your self-confidence, or your mental fortitude.
Start out by jotting down a series of things you’re grateful for at the end of the week. Even if you only begin making lists now, you would have five of them before New Year’s. And, it’s also been shown that developing a good habit in one area can have a ripple effect. Maybe it’ll encourage you to pick up other ones, too.
Maybe the smells of pine and cinnamon or candle wax bring back warm memories. Maybe there’s a new member of the family you’re looking forward to meeting. Maybe the dessert you hadn’t made before just became a new classic.
This time of year offers us the chance to step back, reflect on, and enjoy moments great and small. By taking the time to recognize and address them, and those around us, with gratitude, we hone a skill we can use beyond the holidays. It’s not always easy, I’ll admit, especially when it feels like life is throwing everything and the kitchen sink at you. A couple words of appreciation, written, spoken, or thought, may seem like a big effort for a small step, but it points in a happier direction.