During the holiday season, there tends to be an emphasis on shopping, consumerism and, well, just plain “stuff”. We ask our family for “wish lists”, thereby encouraging our loved ones to prioritize their wants in order of importance. We get so caught up in trends and the culture of spending that sometimes we forget to take a moment to appreciate what we already have. (And no, I’m not referring to that which our money can buy.)
Hang in there with me; I know it may sound trite. We all have varying degrees of stress and obligations, and trying to find a way to appreciate the little things may seem a little far fetched. I think it’s more than that though; that it’s more about being grateful despite some of the obstacles we face. I think gratitude is actually about shifting our focus. It’s not to say we don’t struggle. It doesn’t mean we aren’t tired and anxious and overwhelmed. It simply means that we are willing to make the choice not to let the chaos (whether internal or external) get the best of us.
It may be hard to do at first. As with any new habit, it takes repetition for it to become second nature. And let’s face it, it is much easier to commiserate with coworkers and grumble to our family than it is to consciously take a minute to re-frame and refocus. There are so many recognizable emotional and physical benefits, though, that you will find it well worth the effort. Studies have linked gratitude to healthier relationships, improved mood and better quality sleep.
If you’re looking for a place to start, here are five simple ways to express gratitude:
- Start Early. Before your feet even hit the floor in the morning, think about the things that you are lucky enough to do that day. Maybe you’re going to enjoy breakfast with your family. Maybe you’re heading off to work to pay for the roof over your head! You woke in a warm bed, you feel well rested – the list goes on. The little things count.
- Share. Vocalizing your gratitude is important for a few reasons. It gives you the chance to share your appreciation with someone, and they in turn may share theirs with you. Think of how positive people who are often complimenting others and viewing the world with a sense of appreciation seem. Telling others what you are grateful for also reinforces your thoughts. Hearing yourself recognize things to be happy about can actually create more happiness. And telling others that you are grateful for them will even improve your relationships.
- Smile More. When you are happy and appreciative, show it. So simple yet very effective.
- Journal. Writing is an excellent way to express gratitude. It is therapeutic in itself so you will see the double the benefits! It’s also fun to look back on things that you know have made you happy. And, research shows if you journal before going to bed, you may sleep better.
- Social Media. A perfect example of the ripple effect, try posting your gratitude every day for a week. It may surprise you how receptive people are to you. There are a few gratitude challenges to try out online as well to help you get started: http://gratitudechallenge.com/