“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough” ― Oprah Winfrey
Thanksgiving. Synonymous with Gratitude, and being Thankful. By now, most of us have heard that grateful people are happier, healthier and generally more fulfilled. For a lot of people, however, this holiday term creates a world of anxiety and pain. Food, body, and health issues pop up with all the delicious calorie filled dishes: turkey + stuffing, breads, casseroles, potatoes, pumpkin and apple pies, and other sugar filled concoctions.
Family conflict and complexities are all squeezed in one room. And oh, are these dynamics powerful! (It’s wild how no matter how old I get, or what I’ve achieved in my life, I immediately assume the role of the “baby” in my own family – whenever we are all together). Or perhaps, there is lack of family and loved ones for some, perhaps through distance, cutoff, or even, sadly, death… that can lead to the holidays being a lonely, sad, grief filled time for many.
And who can forget Season Depression that starts to creep in as the seasons shift…. Seasonal affective disorder is a condition that affects nearly 10 million American adults and can make a few months out of the year feel downright unbearable. It’s common to feel bouts of the winter blues, but those with seasonal depression may experience symptoms and low moods that sometimes make everyday tasks feel impossible. (Huffington Post) One of the best, neatest practices out there, not just for the holidays, but all year round is: Gratitude.
And while these are all really great side effects of gratitude, for me, one of the coolest things about gratitude is the way it affects not just our mind, but our body and those around us.
Mind + Body
“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” – Thornton Wilder
Studies show that when people cultivate positive feelings, the heart’s frequency changes and its waves become smoother and more consistent, while anxiety or stress caused waves to be shorter and less organized. Though most positive feelings were capable of affecting the heart in this way, researchers noted that gratitude changed the heart’s rhythm more easily and faster than any of the others. (elephant journal). So if you’re cultivating gratitude, it’s probable that you’re changing the feeling state of those around you for the better, too.
“You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” – Jim Rohn
Rohn made an interesting point in his above quote. Our bodies are filled with energies and frequencies and are constantly communicating with the world around us. And physiologically, it’s gratitude filled energies whose messages are the loudest. We’re affecting each other in ways we may have never imagined. Therefore, choose your company wisely. And for those we don’t “choose” (family); find comfort in the idea that gratitude has a way of transcending all. Keep gratitude flowing in your own heart, mind, and body, and you can change the world around you (including your family and loved ones).
How to Bring Gratitude into Your Life
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” -Albert Schweitzer
To bring gratitude into your life, you can deliberately set a daily or weekly practice. Because gratitude is just that, a practice. Set an intention to meditate or practice mindfulness in the morning or before bed, focusing on all the things in your own life that help you or fill you up. You can also write a gratitude journal, writing about the things you feel grateful for each day. The holidays are a great time to express your gratitude to friends and family as well, by writing cards, exchanging gifts, or letting them know how much they mean. Baking cookies for neighbors or sharing food with the poor are other ways to express appreciation for the abundance of food that we have in our culture. Gratitude can lead to feelings of love, appreciation, generosity and compassion, which further open our hearts and help rewire our brains to be more positive.
“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated. ”- WIlliam James
As many of you get ready for the turkey and family filled festivities this week, we challenge you to reach out to someone you know has a hard time and share some kind words, invite them to your celebrations, give them a holiday goodie bag, or even just ask them how they are doing. You have no idea how your words or small acts of gratitude filled kindness could change their day, week, or even entire holiday season.
Self Care and Seeking Help is Okay
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha
If you struggle with the holidays; Seasonal Depression, anxiety, loneliness, or Grief, (and although it may help), you may need more than just a practice of Gratitude.
Self care is my #1 Priority – especially during this time. My instinct is to hibernate during the cold winter months, so I really have to set an intention and routine with nourishing myself mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. My top self-cares include: Getting enough sleep (8 hours), eating well (Veggies, protein, healthy fats), drinking enough water, regular exercise (3-5x/week including cardio and weights), spend time connecting with loved ones (daily), pamper myself (bubble baths, face masks, manicures, hair treatments), getting creative and making time for hobbies (I love to paint, read, write, and work on fun, new projects) and relaxation (deep breathing, bubble baths, music). Key message: do things that fill you up so you are not running on empty.
It also may be a great time to look into other options such as Therapy; and there are many different kinds. If you don’t really want to “talk” to someone, no worries! Not all treatment options include solely talking. There is also Light therapy, Aromatherapy (Hello Therapy Threads!), EMDR, Hypnotherapy, Neurofeedback, and other holistic options, too. Find a therapist near you at PsychologyToday.com
Ode to Thanks
by Pablo Neruda
Thanks to the word that says thanks!
Thanks to thanks,
iron and snow!
The world is a threatening place
makes the rounds
from one pair of lips to another,
soft as a bright
and sweet as a petal of sugar,
filling the mouth with its sound
or else a mumbled
Life becomes human again:
it’s no longer an open window.
A bit of brightness
strikes into the forest,
and we can sing again beneath the leaves.
Thanks, you’re the medicine we take
to save us from
the bite of scorn.
Your light brightens the altar of harshness.
to far distant peoples.
into the wilds,
and in the jungle
while the hustling train
sweeping away borders,
clinging to pointy
volcanoes, to fire and freezing cold,
or danke, yes! and gracias, and
the world turns into a table:
a single word has wiped it clean,
plates and glasses gleam,
and the tablecloth is as broad as a plain.
Thank you, thanks,
for going out and returning,
for rising up
and settling down.
We know, thanks,
that you don’t fill every space-
you’re only a word-
where your little petal
the daggers of pride take cover,
and there’s a penny’s worth of smiles.
How do you practice gratitude in your own life? Where have you struggled? How can you reach out to others who struggle with this time of year? What can you do to spread gratitude in your own home and community? Let me know in the comments below.