November 22, 2021

Let Gratitude Be Your Attitude This Holiday Season

The holiday season is here, and with it comes the usual expectations for a fun and festive time with family and friends. This time of year, however, can also bring occasional sadness or a tinge of anxiety. Studies show that we can deliberately and consciously cultivate gratitude to improve our mental health, and there are important social and personal benefits that come with it. The emotion of gratitude can generate an overall climate of positivity that moves inward and extends outward in our lives.

Keep reading to learn more about what gratitude is, why it matters, and how you can put this powerful emotion into practice in your own life.

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you,
and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to
your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

What Is Gratitude?

Be grateful for the simple thingsThe word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace or gratefulness. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for the things we receive, whether or not they are tangible. With gratitude, we recognize the goodness in our lives. Being grateful also helps us connect to someone or something other than ourselves — whether that’s other people, nature, or a higher power. Although most of us experience gratitude as a spontaneous feeling, research shows there is value in practicing gratitude, or putting conscious effort towards counting our blessings.

Why Gratitude Matters

Psychologists studying the effects of gratitude have found that, over time, feeling grateful can increase happiness and improve both physical and mental health. Research also shows that people who practice regular gratitude suffer less pain, stress, and insomnia, have more resilient immune systems, experience healthier relationships, and are even stronger academically and professionally.

How to Cultivate Gratitude

Gratitude starts by noticing the good in life. A materialistic culture that sometimes views possessions as the ultimate source of happiness can make the cultivation of gratitude difficult, even on a good day; however, it is not impossible to realign our mindset. Just being more appreciative of life, no matter how large or small the event, and working to feel less cynical pushes us into a more thankful frame of mind. Engaging in a specific act, such as volunteering to support others, can make us feel good about ourselves and help us be grateful to lend a helping hand.

Putting Gratitude Into Practice

Journaling what you're grateful forLike many things in life, regular practice will help you gain lasting benefits that build over time. Start tonight by thinking of three positive things, big or small, that happened during your day—if you have children, this is a great ritual you can engage in as a family. Continue to do this each night. Also, putting your thoughts down on paper or keeping a gratitude journal has proven very powerful. If you start a gratitude journal, it’s important to be as
specific as possible instead of generalizing your thoughts. Journaling will help your brain recognize all of the things you have to be grateful for. Try to get more personal by naming the people and things you want to express your gratitude towards. If you have someone you want to thank, consider writing them a letter or card expressing your appreciation. You can then mail it to them, or better yet, hand deliver it and speak openly about why you’re giving them the card.

To sum it all up, current psychology research confirms that gratitude is a beneficial social emotion that can positively benefit anyone’s life experience. Gratitude is a human emotion that can be linked to a desire to build people and societies that are healthy and thriving. There are so many ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a gratitude journal to the simple act of showing kindness towards a stranger. Consider giving the attitude of gratitude a try in your own life. You might be surprised by the benefits it can bring you, as well as the ripple effect it can have on your family, community, and society as a whole.

7 Ways to Show Gratitude This Holiday Season

1. Send Holiday Cards

Sending holiday cardsThis doesn’t have to be anything fancy or elaborate, it can just be a simple card letting the people you love know that you’re thinking about them and you’re grateful for all they do.

2. Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal

To keep this task doable, put a small notebook by your bedside. Then, when you crawl into bed at night or wake up in the morning, write down three things you’re thankful for.

3. Give Out Compliments

Receiving compliments can feel good to anyone, no matter how simple. Pay it forward by voicing them yourself; just make sure you’re genuine. It’s a small way to make someone else — and, in turn, yourself — feel good.

4. Volunteer in Your Community

Volunteer in your communityHow many of us have thought, “I should really give back more,” only to let the thought slip away? This season, and throughout the year, make good on this thought and spend some time helping out those less fortunate or those currently struggling.

5. Handwrite Thank You Notes

The reason for the note doesn’t have to be a momentous occasion to be deserving of gratitude. Taking time to handwrite your thoughts on paper has much more impact than an email or text for both you and the person receiving the note.

6. Thank the People Who Make Your Life Run Smoothly

Thank trash collectors, mail carriers, dog walkers, hair stylists, grocery baggers, etc. Give them a hand-written thank you note or an in-person “thanks” to let them know they are appreciated for all they do to make life easier.

7. Teach Your Kids

Involve children in your acts of gratitude so they can learn to adopt a positive mindset that will benefit them throughout their life.