The Thanksgiving table shines a warm spotlight on gratitude every year as people gather together to share what they are thankful for. But then it seems to disappear with the turkey leftovers as we move on with our lives toward the next major holiday. We go from feeling full of food and the love of people around us to just so busy.
Thankfulness is bigger than Thanksgiving
What if there was a way to capture that happiness and keep it all year round? It’s not just family time that makes the holiday special — it’s the focus on being thankful for what we have. Even if you can’t have a dinner party with turkey every day, you can take time to experience the peace and joy of gratitude.
Keeping a gratitude journal has increased in popularity over the past few years as more successful public figures like Will Arnett, Arianna Huffington, and Oprah Winfrey have shared what practicing gratitude has done for them.
Arnett shared, “Every single morning, I write a gratuity list. I write down ten things I’m grateful for every day.”
Gratitude has real health benefits
There are so many benefits to practicing gratitude: from a lower risk of depression and anxiety to feeling more alert, optimistic, and happy, not to mention lower stress levels and feeling calmer at night.
Think of what you could do with decreased stress levels and increased happiness. Lower risk for anxiety? Yes, please.
You can be grateful for anything — big or small
Gratefulness is not a feeling reserved for big events or special occasions. It turns out that you can reap its benefits by spending even five minutes to think about what you’re thankful for. Greater Good magazine explains that your gratitude entries can range from the mundane (“waking up this morning”) to the sublime (“the generosity of friends”) to the timeless (“Christmas music”). Or they can be very specific to a moment that you want to capture.
Here’s what George wrote in his gratitude journal on September 27, 2013:
Three new things for which I am grateful — Scan the world for positive instead of negative
- Bed lofts — so much room!
- ereaders — my Kindle Paperwhite rocks
- Ball jars — perfect vessel for coffee, smoothies, and wine
Javi was grateful for these things the week of June 19, 2017:
1. I'm thankful that Ava [his dog] slept through the night all week and didn't feel the need to investigate the squirrels at 3 a.m.
2. I'm thankful I made it through that meeting without setting myself on fire.
Something as simple as an unexpected text from your friend or good weather are worth your gratitude, and writing them down can help you dedicate the time to appreciate them.
Journaling is very personal — it’s not one size fits all. So whether this becomes a daily or weekly habit or something you do sporadically, why not add keeping a gratitude journal to your routine this holiday season?
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, there is so much to be thankful for — parties with friends, family gatherings, sharing and receiving gifts. Too often the opportunity to practice gratitude takes a back seat to stress and a busy calendar. Taking time to write down what you’re thankful for during this season can help prevent holiday burnout and stress. Who doesn’t want to arrive at the new year full of peace and joy? Then keeping up your gratitude journal can be one of your New Year’s resolutions to start 2018 off on the right foot.
Like any new habit, it may take a little time to add it to your routine. But after a few weeks, you could find yourself appreciating the amazing moments of your life and carrying them with you for the rest of the week.
As the year comes to a close, spark a season of gratitude. However you keep track of what you have to be thankful for, this small practice is worth taking up today.