Written By Julie Paiva, CHHC
On Thanksgiving, most of us spent the day reflecting on our blessings. We might have even shared what we’re thankful for around a bountiful dinner table with family and friends. But now that the official day of gratitude has come and gone and the hustle and bustle of the holidays are upon us, stress has likely taken the forefront of our minds. Even if we resolved to express thanks more often as many do on Turkey Day, it’s amazing how even the best practices can lose out to everyday demands. But there is no question that the importance of gratitude goes way beyond the Thanksgiving Day table!
Why is gratitude so important? It’s one of the keys to a happy, fulfilled life. Most of us know that consciously giving thanks for the big and little things in our lives can benefit us in so many ways—from reducing stress, helping our blood pressure, to strengthening our immune system and reducing loneliness. People who are grateful tend to sleep better and have deeper relationships and a more positive outlook. If practicing gratitude is so stellar for our health, why then is a daily practice so difficult to maintain? It is because it takes work and doesn’t usually come to us naturally.
Are you now pondering how to create more gratitude into your life? There are many fun, easy and creative ways to embrace gratitude beyond Thanksgiving. Here are ways to weave gratitude into daily family life.
Develop a Dinner Time Gratitude Toast
Setting aside time to practice gratitude as a family or just individually can become a meaningful tradition and help to reduce daily stressors. Have each person share 3 good things about their day. These statements of gratitude can be large or small things that happened throughout your day. Reflecting on these positive aspects will help you make that shift from wanting to complain about everything that you feel didn’t go right for you. Make your statements more personal by adding in why you are grateful for the people that you are dining with. Let each person tell every other person why they are grateful for them. When we tell people why we are grateful for them, it adds a layer of authenticity to a statement of thanks. It has an infinitely stronger impact on the recipient.
Create an Evening Gratitude Jar
Start a bedtime tradition of sharing what one thing you were most thankful for that day and/ or something you are looking forward to the following day. You can decorate a jar or box to leave by your bedside. Each night add in a strip of paper with the thing you are grateful for written down on it. Over time you will watch this container fill up with all of your positive blessings both big and small. Creating this evening practice will help your mind stay in a state of calmness and gratitude which can lead to more peaceful sleep.
Start a gratitude journal
When you wake up in the morning make a list of things that you are grateful for. This will help you to begin your day feeling good. Often when we wake up, we are thinking of all of the tasks that need to be accomplished that day which can leave us feeling overwhelmed, frantic and stressed. Just simply writing down 3 to 5 things that you have gratitude for can help you to feel more relaxed and ready to take on your day in a positive state.
Be a gratitude role model
Are you tired of hearing everyone around you constantly complaining? Be an example of gratitude for others. Talk with friends and family about things that you are grateful for. When someone brings up something negative, help them to look for a positive aspect of it. When others express gratitude on their own, acknowledge it. Complement people instead of complaining. If someone compliments, you simply say thank you instead of excusing the compliment like you are not worthy of it.
It is important to remember that people don’t naturally develop an “attitude of gratitude.” It’s a skill that must be learned and practiced consistently over time. Although you might not see progress overnight, your continued efforts will pay off in dividends for yourself and others around you. Keep practicing gratitude the other 364 days when we are not celebrating Thanksgiving. Nothing can go wrong by adding in a little more positivity into your world. We can never have enough gratitude in our lives.