It’s November which means that the annual debate over when it is officially permissible to listen to Christmas music and put up holiday decorations. However, before you get too wrapped up in the December spirit, don’t forget about one of my favorite holidays: Thanksgiving! While the food, family time, and kick-off of the official holiday season are all great parts of Thanksgiving, the biggest theme of Thanksgiving is being thankful for what you have. Gratitude is a critical part of the holiday and it’s also an important part of self-care.
The benefits of gratitude are many, and they don’t just include being more grateful for the things around you, although that certainly is an obvious effect. For one thing, gratitude promotes selflessness which has long been tied to an increased level of wellbeing. One of the best things you can do for the purposes of self-care sometimes is to get outside of your own problems and help someone else. Being thankful for what you have can promote a similar effect. Realizing all that we have to be grateful for helps us to thank others for their place in our lives and also increases our desire to help others. But the benefits don’t end there. Regularly practicing gratitude can also have physical benefits. A study cited by PsychologyToday showed that students who consciously practiced gratitude had a variety of health benefits such as better sleep, high frequencies of exercise, and a higher quality of nutrition. Not only are there mental benefits to intentional gratitude, it’s also correlated to better health and habits overall.
You may have heard all about the benefits of practicing gratitude but be wondering how to incorporate it into your daily life. Read on for 3 easy but beneficial ways to make #grateful November into a lifelong habit!
Try gratitude journaling.
The basic idea here is that you take time every day to list 3-5 things that you’re grateful for. Sure, you can start out by listing the obvious things like your family or the fact that you have clean water, but the main idea of the habit-based gratitude journaling is recognizing what specifically made each day good rather than the big-picture ideas. You can journal in the old-fashioned way with a physical book or get one of the many gratitude apps. One well known example is an app called Happyfeed. Basing its layout on positive psychology research, Happyfeed allows you to record three good things each day along with uploading pictures to remind you of the good times. It also has a feature that allows you to see what you were doing 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year ago which can provide a sort of scrapbooking and memory feature to boot. For more gratitude apps to choose from, check out this article.
Say thank you.
The act of expressing your heartfelt gratitude to another person is not only beneficial to you but also spreads the joy and gratitude outside of yourself to another person. Whether you express your gratitude verbally or in written form, a sincere expression of thanks is sure to brighten their day. Perhaps this month, challenge yourself to thank someone who means a lot to you each week. This could be a significant other, your children’s babysitter, a caring boss or coworker, or even just a cheerful cashier at the grocery store. If you want to think more long-distance, you could send a thank-you note to someone who has had a big impact on your life whether that’s an elderly relative, a former teacher, or perhaps a childhood friend. Don’t overthink your expression of thanks; just keep it from the heart and you’ll be making a difference in both of your lives!
Get a gratitude group going.
While practicing gratitude on your own is an admirable habit, practicing it in community can make it even better! See if you can enlist a friend (or many friends) to join you in your quest to be more grateful and recognize the good around you. There is strength in numbers, and that is especially true when it comes to accountability. Having others join you in any sort of challenge can be a prime motivating factor to keep the habit going and to encourage one another. Whether you utilize social media to form your gratitude group or organize it through your office, church, or neighborhood friend group, find a cohort of people who are also committed to promoting the habit of gratitude in their lives.
While November may be the month during which you hear the most about giving thanks and being grateful, the gratitude doesn’t need to end with the calendar change to December. Add some gratitude to your self-care regimen and watch it transform your life for the better!
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