During this holiday season it is important to recognize that people with a strong sense of gratitude, love and appreciation don't necessarily have more than others; they simply recognize and see the potential in their lives. A 2003 study suggested that people who cultivate thankfulness are generally happier and healthier than people who don't. Here are some ways to practice gratitude, love and appreciation all year long for a happier, healthier you.
Keep a Gratitude Journal. Remind yourself what you have to be grateful for and recording your gratefulness each day helps to cement how thankful you are. It doesn't matter how difficult your life is at the moment, there is always something to be thankful for, some shining light of gratitude. Finding that will help you deal with the other parts of life.
· Record 3-5 things you're thankful for every single day.
· Spend a little time each day reflecting on the things you're most grateful for, during that day.
· When you're having a particularly difficult time, it can be beneficial to go back to what you've written previously.
Turn your thinking around. People who are thankful for the things in their lives aren't living an easier life than you. In fact, many of the people who practicing the most gratitude are the people who have had incredibly difficult things happen to them, because they understand that it isn't the situation that's the problem, it's how you think about the situation that makes it easier or more difficult.
· Use the correct words. Using negative language and labeling can make a situation more difficult and make it harder for you to be thankful in general.
· Bashing yourself and others is going to make you less able to be truly thankful. When you find that you're thinking negatively about yourself or another person, stop and turn that thinking around.
Practice mindfulness. By being in the moment you are making it impossible for your brain to race ahead and worry or plan for the future, or become bogged down in the past. This is one way of practicing thankfulness, because you are immersing yourself in the present and acknowledging and thanking the importance of the "now."
· Practice mindfulness while you eat. This means, don't read a book, watch TV or check your phone. Instead, focus on the food that you're putting into your mouth: is it hot? cold? what is the texture like?
· Do this while going for a walk, or simply sitting outside. Notice the color of the sky and shape of the clouds. Notice the color and shape of the trees and the plants, locate any smells, and listen to the wind in the trees.
· Practicing mindfulness is a way of being present to each moment as it happens. It is one technique that can help ease mental health issues like depression or anxiety, because these tend to be caused by fear for the future and concern about the past.
Practice meditation. Meditation is another of those incredibly useful ways of dealing with mental health issues and a general sense of malaise in your life. It can also help to foster your thankfulness and gratitude practices
· Go somewhere quiet and meditate for 15 minutes each day. Seat yourself comfortably and start to take deep breaths. Your belly will rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Focus on your breath. When errant thoughts demand your attention acknowledge them and let them go. If you find that you've strayed from the meditation, focus on your breathing again.
· It can be helpful to set a breathing limit rather than a time limit so you aren't constantly watching the clock. Say something lie "I'll meditate for 50 breaths." If you lose track, that's okay! It's probably time to be done, anyways.
Cultivate a healthy life-style. Being thankful is actually something that can greatly help make you healthy and keep you healthy. However, it does help to give thankfulness a boost by cultivating a healthy life-style for yourself by getting enough sleep, drinking water, and eating in a way that fosters your well-being.
· Sleep is a huge component to health and to being thankful. While, it's certainly admirable to practice gratitude even during those sleepless, anxiety-fueled times in your life, getting enough sleep can help make thankfulness easier to cultivate. Try to get to sleep before 11:00 p.m. and turn off all electronics 30 minutes before bedtime.
· Get enough water. Since water makes up so much of our systems, it's a necessary component to making sure everything runs smoothly. Try for at least 8 glasses of water each day.
· Get exercise. Exercise releases happy chemicals like endorphins, which help to regulate your moods and make you feel better. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
· Make sure you're putting food in your body that will help your body run effectively and happily. Go for veggies and fruits (the darker colored, the more nutrients) like kale, red peppers, and bananas; good carbohydrates like brown rice, whole grain, oats; protein like salmon, nuts, lean meats, eggs. Avoid sugar and salt as much as possible. Focus your diet on the best, most healthy parts, with the occasional indulgence.
Wishing you and your family a Happy Holiday Season,
Dr. Lorri Nichols
Federal Way, WA