“Every morning when I open my curtains for that first look at the day, no matter what the day looks like—raining, foggy, overcast, sunny—my heart swells with gratitude. I get another chance.”
Oprah Winfrey, What I Know for Sure
Thanksgiving is upon us. This holiday reminds us of the importance of taking the time to consider all we have and to appreciate it deeply. But thankfulness isn’t automatic. It’s easy to slip out of the habit under the many stresses and strains of daily life. That’s where gratitude practices come in. These three simple rituals can help you mindfully maintain the spirit of Thanksgiving long after all the leftover cranberries and pumpkin pie have been eaten.
1) Gratitude Journal. A gratitude journal is a private way to reflect on what makes you feel thankful. Set aside a few minutes before bed to write down five things that went right that day. Did you savor your morning cup of tea? Experience kindness from a stranger? Did you have a heartfelt conversation with your spouse?
Recording gratitude makes your heart happy. One study conducted by professors from the University of California-Davis and the University of Miami found that after people wrote about things that made them feel grateful for ten weeks, they felt more optimistic than those who wrote about things that upset them (or, for that matter, about neutral topics). Not only were the people who kept the gratitude journal happier, they were also healthier, with fewer doctor’s visits.1,2
2) Gratitude Walk. A gratitude walk is another way to reflect on your blessings, but instead of writing them down, you consider them as you move through the world. Morning is the perfect time to take a gratitude walk because in addition to resetting your mood, it will get your blood flowing and help you start your day happy and energized.
Take a short walk (10-20 minutes) through your neighborhood, and think about everything you are grateful for, letting the emotion flow through your body. If you’re in a hard place in your life, it can be difficult to refocus your attention on the good. If that’s the case, go basic: give thanks for being able to walk, or for sleeping in a warm bed, or for living somewhere that is not war-torn. Not everyone can say the same.
3) Gratitude Card. The last step is to let others know that you are grateful for them. Make a regular habit of this by choosing someone to thank every week and writing that person a thank you card. It can be a big thank you—to your mother for always making you feel loved and cared for—or a small thank you—to the cashier who gave you a big smile when you were having a rough day. Writing a gratitude card will not only make you feel good, it will probably make the recipient’s day.
Help for the Holidays
The holiday season lends itself to moments of high stress between traveling, shopping, or even planning and attending parties and family get-togethers. These moments of occasional anxiousness can rob us of joy and make it hard to appreciate all of the beautiful small moments. If you are someone that tends to feel occasional worry and anxiousness during the holidays, then it may be worth exploring some ways to help deal with these feelings. Gaia Herbs’ award-winning Calm A.S.A.P.™ was formulated with a harmonious blend of Passionflower, Skullcap, Chamomile and Lavender, which are herbs that have been used traditionally to provide a sense of calm and peace when you need it the most, taking you from feeling frazzled to feeling tranquil.*
Practice Makes Perfect
Our brains are hardwired to focus on what’s wrong—it’s a survival mechanism. Gratitude practice short-circuits that natural instinct, helping us recognize and embrace the good things in life. And remember that, by definition, the word “practice” means a repeated exercise of an activity or skill so as to acquire proficiency in it. So start small and try some of the gratitude practices that we listed in this article. Once you “practice” these consistently, they will become a natural part of your life, helping you feel more fulfilled and joyful.
May your heart be full of thanks during this season!
1 In praise of gratitude. Harvard Mental Health Letter. 2011 Nov. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude
2 Emmons RA, McCullough ME. Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Feb;84(2):377-89.