I know the holiday season is here, but I’ll be honest, this is the time of year when I sometimes struggle to find joy. The days are short, with the early evenings looking like midnight, and the cultural pressure to exude holiday cheer can certainly weigh heavily on those of us who may not necessarily be feeling overly cheerful at all times.
The news has not helped. A brutal hate crime at a nightclub in Colorado with numerous innocent people dead, a shooting in a Walmart in Virginia and a horrific Apple store nightmare in my adopted hometown have all left more questions than answers for those of us who can’t understand why our society is full of so much senseless violence and loss of life.
Only in darkness can you see the stars.Martin Luther King Jr.
But Julia’s post last week about finding the kindness and connection in our day-to-day interactions around us really resonated with me. With the arrival of Thanksgiving this weekend, I started thinking proactively about ways to foster a positive mental state during this darkest time of the year. It struck me that the word Thanksgiving itself provides us with a path for the rest of this season. Giving thanks, and expressing gratitude, can go a long way toward helping us lift our own spirits, and those of our friends.
According to an article from Harvard Health Publishing, “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Another article from Psychology Today highlights numerous scientifically proven benefits of practicing gratitude. These include opening the door to more relationships, improving physical and psychological health, enhancing empathy and reducing aggression, improving sleep and self-esteem, as well as increasing mental strength. What an incredible list of benefits!
So, how do we do it? We can start small, by taking some deep breaths and noticing at least one thing that is good about our day. For example, the small interactions that went well on the commute to work, as Julia wrote about last week. Or, looking around our surroundings to take note of one beautiful thing about our day or within our line of sight. For me, the gorgeous blooms on my mother’s Christmas cactus nearly knocked me flat when I was at her house for Thanksgiving. That plant is green and healthy all year long, yet it always blossoms at the darkest time of year, leaving me grateful to witness this vibrant shock of color.
I can no other answer make, but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks…William Shakespeare
For further information and ideas on how to practice gratitude more proactively every day, you can start by reading these tips on mindfulness and suggested gratitude exercises. And from all of us at LOF, we hope you had a very Happy Thanksgiving and we’re most grateful for your continued readership!