I love fall. Family and friends getting together, traditions, and the cool breeze of fall pumpkins. With it comes the reflection of the meaning behind it; giving thanks. But what does it mean to give thanks? What does a heart of gratitude look like? Honestly, there is so much goodness to being thankful. Every November I like to give thanks to the people that helped and supported me.
This year is no different, The holiday season for many comes with high expectations for a cozy and festive time of year.
However, for many others this time of year is tinged with sadness, anxiety, or depression. But what about those who just feel lost, overwhelmed or down at this time of year? To be clear, thanksgiving does not deny the world’s hurt or our own. Research suggests that one aspect of the Thanksgiving season can actually lift the spirits, and it’s built right into the holiday — being grateful.
Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier. Along with a smile we talked about a cou[le of weeks ago. If you missed it check it out Smile for your health.
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways, gratitude encompasses all of these meanings.
Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives.
In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, being grateful also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.
Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. It can apply to the past with positive memories and being thankful for parts of childhood or past blessings, the present not taking good fortune for granted, and the future maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude.
Regardless of the current level of someone’s gratitude, it’s a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate further. Because appreciation and thankfulness often fosters positive feelings, and positive feelings contribute to individual well-being, it can be contagious.
Few things transform a human life like giving thanks. It is simple and free to do.
Giving thanks allows our heart, perspective, and attitude to change.
Ways to cultivate gratitude
Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met.
Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.
Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.
Count your blessings: Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
Meditate: Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “Happy or peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, the trees, a pleasant sound, etc.).
Thank someone mentally. No time to reach out or write a note? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
Write a thank-you note: You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank you letter or email expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
Keep a gratitude journal: Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day.
Pray: People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
Reducing stress Getting more sleep: Cortisol is often called the “stress hormone,” and when our bodies produce too much, it can deplete the immune system and raise blood pressure and sugar levels. A study found that positive emotions like appreciation significantly lowered levels of cortisol. As does sleep. Stress takes the rap for many things in our life.
People give thanks in all the moments of life, both good and bad. Gratitude lifts us up every time — always within us and sometimes with what’s around us, too. It frees us from shackles of self-focus and complaint and lets us rise again with happy hearts and a hopeful sight.
The key ingredients of gratitude are simple: seeing and saying.
We first choose to pay attention — noticing good gifts, from green grass to a stranger’s smile, the marvel of a human hand to the wonder of grace.
Then, we put it into words — naming the goodness we’ve received and expressing thanks to the Giver.
Being happy and grateful are a voice. Let me encourage you to choose gratitude. Do it because of its value. Do it because giving thanks will benefit every part of you. Do it most of all because it calls you to it.
You can pause even now in these crazy times to express gratitude for specific gifts in your life. Think of ways to thank others today, too, for the good they’ve brought you.
Consider also ways you can cultivate giving thanks for things.
THE ONE GIFT THAT GIVES ACCESS TO ALL GIFTS
Ultimately, gratitude is the one gift that gives us access to all gifts.
With Thanksgiving and other food-centered holidays coming up, being grateful, smiling and getting 7-8 hours of sleep can reduce Stress in the body.
No matter how many good things surround us, without gratitude, we’ll inevitably miss them. Gratitude opens our eyes and hearts, enabling us to see all gifts and delight in both their goodness and their Giver.
So, whatever you can there’s nothing better than asking what we are thankful for and giving thanks to others.
It’s not just the feeling of thankfulness that counts; the power is in the giving of it. The expression of thanks. Our thanks awaken as we do something with it.
It’s not enough just to be thankful. Giving thanks is what allows our heart, perspective, and attitude to change. In very practical terms, this means getting it out. Let it begin within our hearts. Express it. Write it down. Say it out loud, or even better, share it.
Try it today. When you catch your thoughts drifting toward the negative, turn that train around by finding something to be thankful for and expressing it aloud.
The potential benefits are huge for yourself and others to be grateful not just for Thanksgiving but all year long.