October Spotlight: Giving Thanks
October Spotlight: Giving Thanks
You’ve made it through the first month of the school year, surely that is something to celebrate! Welcome to October, a month where we can pause and give thanks for what we are grateful for.
Gratitude is something we can practice every day of the year, not just during the season of Thanksgiving.
Gratitude is the act of recognizing and acknowledging the good things that happen, resulting in a state of appreciation (Sansone & Sansone, 2010). Gratitude is a conscious positive emotion that involves being thankful and appreciative and is associated with several mental and physical health benefits. Practicing gratitude is the acknowledgment of goodness in one’s life, both tangible and intangible; recognizing that sources of this goodness lie outside the self. It helps people focus on the positive aspects of their life and gain perspective.
There are benefits to practicing gratitude:
Gratitude can help build and maintain relationships with others, resulting in hope, life satisfaction, and more proactive behaviors toward others (Passmore & Oades, 2016). It creates stronger social connections.
Gratitude appears to have a domino effect. If a person experiences gratitude, they are more likely to recognize the help and then later reciprocate that help (Wood et al., 2010). People who are thanked are presumably more apt to extend help to others in the future.
Research shows that people who practice gratitude meditation regularly have a well-balanced blood pressure level, better metabolism, and enhanced mood conditions. In a study on suicidal ideations, it was found that higher levels of gratitude were associated with fewer suicidal thoughts and attempts (Kleiman, Adams, Kashdan, & Riskind, 2013).
It deepens resilience. Living your life with gratitude helps you notice the little wins—like the bus showing up right on time, a stranger holding the door for you, or the sun shining through your window when you wake up in the morning. Each of these small moments strings together to create a web of well-being that, over time, strengthens your ability to notice the good, and cope with life’s inevitable challenges. True happiness can be found not by looking at the positive things only, but rather by being aware of the negative things and choosing not to let them affect our wellbeing (Myers & Diener, 1995).
There are various ways to practice gratitude. You can find a way that works for you!
Meditation: Gratitude meditation is a conscious effort to appreciate what makes us feel good.
- First, find a comfortable position to rest in, either in a chair, or on a comfortable flat surface.
- Take a moment to center yourself. Turn off the ringer on your phone to ensure you won’t be disturbed. If you’re able, close the door to the room you’re in.
- Now, take a deep breath through your nose. Fill your lungs entirely with air. Let your breath out through your mouth.
- Take a few more deep breaths this way. In through the nose, filling the lungs with air, and out through the mouth.
- Now, we’ll practice a gratitude mantra.
The mantra is: I am grateful for ______________.
- Sounds pretty simple, right? All you need to do is fill in the blank with something you’re grateful for.
- We will repeat this mantra 10 times. Each time you repeat the mantra, try to come up with something different that you’re thankful for. If you’re having trouble coming up with things, start small, focusing on your immediate environment.
You could be thankful for the breeze coming through the window, cooling your face. Or you could be grateful for the soft, plush surface you’re resting on.
Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
I am grateful for the air in my lungs.
I am grateful for my heart that beats and keeps me alive.
I am grateful for my senses that help me perceive the world.
I am grateful for my comfortable bed.
I am grateful for my clothes that protect me and keep me warm.
Gratitude Letter: Put your thoughts into action and your words down on paper. Write a gratitude letter to yourself, or to someone you feel gratitude toward, how and why you are grateful. What is the impact? Most people have no idea how much of a positive difference they make in the lives of others!
Gratitude Jar: Make a practice of writing down what you are grateful for and put it in the jar. When you are feeling depleted or needing a boost, take your jar out and remind yourself of all the things you do have, rather than focus on perceived deficits.
Verbalize your gratitude: Say it! Tell someone that you are grateful in ways that work for you. Thank you goes a long way.
Gratitude Journal: A gratitude journal is a great way to intentionally carve out time to reflect on what you are grateful for. There is no wrong or right way to do it, but here are some helpful tips:
- Be as specific as possible. “I am grateful that my co-workers covered recess duty when I was sick on Thursday” will be more effective than “I am grateful for my co-workers.”
- Go for quality not quantity. Elaborating in detail about a particular person or thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
- Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
- Try subtraction, not just addition. Consider what your life would be like without certain people or things, rather than just tallying up all the good stuff. Be grateful for the negative outcomes you avoided, escaped, prevented, or turned into something positive—try not to take that good fortune for granted.
- See good things as “gifts.” Thinking of the good things in your life as gifts guards against taking them for granted. Try to relish and savor the gifts you’ve received.
- Savor. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
- Write regularly. Whether you write every other day or once a week, commit to a regular time to journal, then honor that commitment.
There are lots of ways to practice gratitude – get creative and play around with what works for you. If you want support around cultivating your own gratitude practice, reach out to a Wellness Specialist at email@example.com or call 1.877.602.1660. There are resources available on the web portal to support you and your wellness, including gratitude practices at: www.careforallineducation.com