Practicing Gratitude This Upcoming Holiday Season

The holiday season is quickly approaching. It can be a time for family, traditions, and celebrations but it can also be a time of increased stress. Expectations of ourselves and others can result in increased anxiety and feeling downright overwhelmed.

During this holiday season, we can practice thankfulness or gratitude to alleviate some of the holiday angst. Gratitude, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is defined as the quality of being thankful: readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness to a person or thing. It comes from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness, depending on the context. Gratitude research indicates it can improve our well-being both directly, because it promotes well-being and indirectly, as it provides a buffer to negative emotional states. (Nelson, 2009)[i].

Gratitude has also been shown to increase joy. In her book, The Gift of Imperfection, Brene Brown writes “without exception, every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life or who described themselves as joyful, actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice”. Many in the recovery community have heard the phrase “A grateful heart will never pick-up”. Fear, anxiety, and self-pity from projection or regret can result in a vicious thinking cycle. This type of thinking can lead to self-justification and relapse. Practicing gratitude can be the antidote to self-justification as it can shift the perspective from a place of lack to a place of appreciation. Practicing gratitude can also lead to improved mental health.

Research indicates that people who express gratitude regularly have lower rates of stress and depression. According to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkely, expressing gratitude can improve your mood.

Lastly, writing in a gratitude journal resulted in improved sleep, according to a study published in the Applied Psychology: Health and Well-being. Try expressing gratitude this holiday season, perhaps you will find less stress, more joy, and sleep a little sounder.

Ideas for practicing gratitude

  • Make a list what you are grateful for
  • Google ‘gratitude questions
  • Post a picture daily of what you are grateful on social media (place, food, memory, tradition, family member, friend)
  • Tell your significant other one reason you appreciate them every morning