It's that time of the year when things are getting busy. Thanksgiving is about one month away, and before we know it, the holidays and new year will be upon us. This is a hectic time. It's easy to lose touch with self-care and we may take pause less often. What better way to give ourselves a break, especially with Thanksgiving approaching, than by acknowledging what we're grateful for. As it turns out, practicing regular gratitude helps boost our physical, social, and psychological well-being. More important, being grateful appears to be one of the major keys to happiness.
What makes gratitude so transformative? First, it brings us back to the present moment by teaching us to value something we have, as opposed to fretting about something we don't have. It allows us to notice the positives in our lives more mindfully, and move away from taking things for granted. Second, gratitude is a wonderful antidote to toxic, negative emotions. Try feeling resentful or envious while also feeling grateful - it won't work. Third, gratitude gives us perspective during negative life events or stressful times. It helps us take a step back and re-evaluate. And finally, by recognizing what has been given and provided to us by others, we can learn to see ourselves in a more positive light.
So how can we cultivate this important virtue of gratitude? Here are three simple tips:
1. Keep a gratitude journal. Every night, jot down 3 things you are grateful for. This is like counting your blessings consciously and mindfully.
2. Accept lessons learned, even hard ones, with gratitude.
3. Make "thank you" a daily part of your vocabulary. Besides using it consciously with strangers (such as the bagger at the grocery store), also make it a point to sit down with a loved one and tell them why you appreciate them. It will do you both good.
Gratitude is an important part of emotional health and can also be one of the many techniques learned in counseling or psychotherapy. I am a Houston psychologist. For more information about my practice, visit DrGortner.com.
To read more about the gratitude research that inspired this posting, visit Dr. Emmons' article at http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good/