As we enter into the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to get caught up in materialism and lose sight of what this time of year is really about. Research shows that people who regularly practice gratitude experience more positive emotions, tend to be more successful, sleep better and have stronger immune systems. Sounds great, right? But starting any new practice can be difficult, especially during the holidays, so here are a few tips that may help start and maintain a gratitude practice as we enter into the season of gratitude and giving.
- Write it down
Putting pen to paper and actually writing out what you are grateful for is one of the best ways to reap the benefits of gratitude. When we acknowledge small fortunes each day we slowly change the way we perceive situations. For example, you may have had a great accomplishment like, “today my boss told me I was doing a good job,” something small such as “a stranger held the door for me when my hands were full,” or something like, “I am grateful to have found a doctor that takes the time to listen to me, to get to know me, and to help me become a healthier person.” Sometimes it can be challenging to dive into the blessings beyond those that are right in front of you such as family, friends and basic needs, but once you open your eyes to the “small mercies” in your daily life you will notice a shift in your practice and general attitude.
- Commit to it
Making a conscious effort to write down your daily blessings and affirmations will enable you to grow and obtain the physical and mental health benefits of gratitude fostering. Writing small notes each day makes us happier, thankful and more optimistic. These positive feelings are encouraging and help us to maintain our practice, especially on those tougher days. I highly recommend using a journal of some kind to keep log of your practice. A regular ruled journal is great or you may choose a journal specific to gratitude fostering. As your practice grows you will be able to flip through pages of full of daily affirmations and positive events. It is also helpful to choose a set time of day to journal. Will you write in the morning to set intentions for the day ahead, in the evening to reflect on the day, or both?
- Verbalize and embody it
One of the many rewards of channeling appreciation for life’s small gifts is that you are more likely to be oriented towards being compassionate, sharing and helping. Fostering gratitude and love for your life is very important but radiating that positivity outward is equally rewarding and crucial to your practice coming full circle. Write a letter to someone who you are grateful for, share your gratitude at the dinner table every night, show someone your appreciation through a thoughtful gesture, volunteer or donate.
Manifesting your practice into your daily life will not only make you feel good for extending extra compassion into the world, but it will make others feel a little more appreciated as well. And that, is the beautiful cycle of gratitude, which can lead to a beautiful cycle of health.
Dr. Steve Horvitz is R-Health’s Medical Director and one of the physician’s part of the NJ SHBP / SEHBP program.