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Holiday Survival Guide: Gratitude

The holidays are rough. This season that is supposed to be full of family, giving, and celebration often leaves us feeling stressed and exhausted. I’m a big believer in the idea that there has to be a better way, so I’ve done some research around this issue and how we can make our lives—and everyone else’s lives—easier in the coming months.

In the onslaught of internet resources on diminishing stress, creating a healthier environment for yourself, establishing good boundaries, and making sure you get plenty of sleep at night (all very important topics), one subject in particular stood out to me: Gratitude.

It’s a buzzword right now, flooding articles on mindfulness, health, and success. But why?

With a little research, I was able to put together some of facts on why gratitude is a life-changing habit and not just another catchy trend.

  • It’s good for your health.
    Thanks to researchers at Berkeley University, the health effects of gratitude are no longer conjecture. For any fellow data lovers or hesitant skeptics, we now have the numbers to back up what many cultures have known for centuries: gratitude dramatically improves your health and quality of life. From better sleep to lower blood pressure to feeling more awake and alert, gratitude’s positive side effects are many.
  • It improves your relationships.
    Gratitude leaves very little room for criticism and low self-esteem. The insecurity and fear that damage our relationships can’t live in the light, and gratitude is like the sun—warm and life-giving. The very basic foundation of saying thank you and showing appreciation for the people in your life will open you to more and better relationships. The combination of being less stressed, looking for the good in every situation and interaction, and the empathy that comes as a natural byproduct of gratitude will all work together to enrich the way you relate to others and to yourself.
  • It’s easy to practice
    The benefits of gratitude are made more amazing by the fact that it is easy for anyone to find a practice that works for them. Some choose to keep a gratitude journal daily or weekly by listing a few things they’re grateful for. Others choose gratitude meditation, which is nothing more than simple meditation centered around gratitude (You can find guided gratitude meditations, like this one, online). Some make a daily habit of verbally recounting what they’re grateful for with a loved one. We can encourage gratitude in our family by being curious about what they’re grateful for or what made them feel loved that day. For more simple ideas on how to incorporate gratitude into your daily life, check out LifeHack.com.
  • It’s not about faking the sunny side.
    The beautiful thing about gratitude is that it requires authenticity. Gratitude does not mean that you deny the negative or difficult parts about your life. Instead, you face them and seek to find the redeeming things within them. Don’t deny your hurt, your disappointment, or your discomfort. They are important parts of your experience. Find something to be grateful for in them and it will revolutionize the way you think about adversity, the world, and yourself.

The holidays are difficult for many of us. There are endless opportunities to experience stress and anxiety, which means there are also endless opportunities to practice gratitude. Start small, find something that works for you, and see how your perspective changes. The science is solid—it won’t be long before you begin to see the world and yourself a bit differently.

Kaela Prall-Moore, BA