Thanksgiving gives us some time to get away from work to unwind with our loved ones while we stuff ourselves with turkey, mashed potatoes, biscuits, and whatever else is on our table. It is also a time for us to reflect on everything that happened in the past year and show our gratitude. You may currently be struggling physically, mentally, socially, or financially and think your life is a failure. Still, if you can relate to anything in those first two sentences, you already have many things to be thankful for. Many people in the United States and worldwide do not have a family to spend time with, a delicious meal to eat, or even a place to sleep. Others may be working throughout the holidays or may be unemployed.

 

Looking at life in this regard will help you realize how fortunate you are. Looking on the bright side will make you more confident, optimistic, and happier, improving your mental health. Keep reading below for tips on how to appreciate what you have.

 

Visual Reminders

If you’re having trouble putting your life into perspective, surround yourself with visual reminders such as photos, keepsakes, and recollections. Working, for example, may cause you to become stressed. Still, having images of your family from a wonderful vacation, a baseball you caught at a memorable game, or a cute drawing your child created for you in your workplace will help you remember why you’re there in the first place: to generate money, support loved ones, and create more of those memories. These visual reminders will inspire you to be more productive at work and at home by encouraging you to express more love and gratitude.

 

Remember Bad Times

This may sound counterintuitive, but remembering times when you were worse off will make you grateful for your current situation. Recovering alcoholics/drug addicts use this trick when they feel anxious, and reminiscing on their days in rehab away from family mitigate their urges.

 

Show Gratitude to the One’s You Love

Everyone wants to feel loved, and studies show that showing gratitude toward others helps romantic and non-romantic relationships thrive. A report in the Harvard Mental Health Letter states: ​‘A study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.’1 If only one party shows it, the negativity will eventually rub off on the other, and marriage satisfaction will decline.

A different study found that thanking a new acquaintance for something they did—whether holding a door open for a stranger or thanking a colleague for helping them with a project—makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship.2 It is also proven that employees who have managers who thank and give credit to them are more motivated to work harder.1 Acknowledging other people’s actions with those two simple words can serve as the building blocks for long-lasting opportunities and friendships!

 

Keep a Journal

Have you ever gone to the store to pick up a few items and forget what you went there for? Most likely. Thus, the shopping list was born. This proves the power of writing things down. People who struggle with feeling gratitude should keep a journal or log of all the things in life they are thankful for. Start simple with the health of your family, your house, or the food on your table; then get more specific, like the compliment you received on a task at work or the small amount of traffic on the way home, which allowed you to catch your child’s first goal of the season. This is a great way to start and/or end each day.

If you wake up in the morning dreading work and the day ahead, then you should start your journal then. If you are someone who tosses and turns at night because you imagine the stress that tomorrow will/may bring, you should write in your journal before bed. Trying to fall asleep with that mindset is a terrible idea and will only make you more stressed and tired the following day.

The University of Manchester in England conducted a study that included over 400 adults of all ages—40% with sleep disorders—who completed questionnaires about gratitude, sleep, and pre-sleep thoughts. The study found the subjects dozing off faster and sleeping longer and better.3  

 

Gratitude is an essential trait to have if you want to be a happy person. So what if you have a mean boss or a grouchy uncle who is staying with you this weekend—don’t let work or the political discussion at the dinner table ruin your mood and opinion of the holidays. Be extra grateful for what you have, and you’ll find yourself enjoying what is the true meaning of the season is.

 

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REFERENCES

 

  1. “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier.” Harvard Health, 14 Aug. 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier.
  2. Hagan, Euka. “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 3 Apr. 2015, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude.
  3. Andrews, Linda W. “How Gratitude Helps You Sleep at Night.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 9 Nov. 2011, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/minding-the-body/201111/how-gratitude-helps-you-sleep-night.
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