What Are You Grateful For?
This Thanksgiving, like millions of other Canadians, we’re grateful to celebrate the holiday with our loved ones (safely, at small indoor and outdoor gatherings). Thanksgiving reminds us to feel gratitude for what we have, and to not take people or things for granted – a sentiment that feels especially true in light of the past year and a half.
Gratitude can help us weather difficult situations, and that’s not all. People who practice it consistently tend to be happier and have higher self-esteem. They also tend to sleep better and exercise more, have lower blood pressure and fewer aches and pains, and feel more alert, optimistic and alive. They’re more outgoing, and they’re less likely to feel lonely or isolated.
A grateful perspective
Gratitude is essential when we’re dealing with life’s problems, according to Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at UC Davis who is a leading expert on the subject. “In fact, it is precisely under crisis conditions when we have the most to gain by a grateful perspective on life,” he wrote in Greater Good Magazine. When disaster happens, “gratitude provides a perspective from which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by temporary circumstances.”
Gratitude in everyday life
Feeling grateful, especially when you’re dealing with life’s challenges, takes effort and persistence. Here are a few ways to start cultivating your sense of gratitude:
Keep a gratitude journal. Studies have found that keeping a gratitude journal helps people feel, sleep and function better. To get started, pick a notebook or notepad that you’ll only use for journaling. At the end of each day, write down three to five things you’re grateful for – big or small. This will help you make a habit of looking for the positives in daily life.
Write thank-you notes. Expressing gratitude to someone can improve your own happiness as well as that of the person you’re thanking. It can also help you strengthen your relationships. Try writing a thank-you card or letter to someone who has made a positive impact on your life. You might be surprised by how much people appreciate a simple handwritten note. Or, instead of writing a note, express your gratitude by doing something nice for someone.
Live mindfully. As you go through your day, pay closer attention to your activities and experiences. For example, when eating a meal, take your time, and don’t watch TV or check your phone. Instead, focus on the food’s textures, aromas and flavours. Think about where the ingredients came from, and how fortunate you are to have enough to eat. Slowing down like this will also help prevent overeating.
Practice meditation. Focusing on gratitude and abundance as you meditate can give you a greater sense of well-being. To get started, choose a comfortable, quiet place. Sit in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Relax your shoulders, then close your eyes or gaze gently at a spot on the floor. You can think about reasons to be grateful, or repeat a mantra out loud (“I am grateful for…”). Want to try a guided gratitude meditation? Listen to a 10-minute recording like this one.
Cultivating gratitude takes time and practice, but the longer you do it, the more physical and psychological benefits you may experience.