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12 Ways to Practice Gratitude this Thanksgiving and Beyond


HAPPY THANKSGIVING 2021 — TO EVERYONE — FROM THE CALENDAR TEAM

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Here are a few tidbits of information to spread around your table today.

Legend has it that following the arrival of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620, where 46 of the Pilgrims’ original 102 colonists died, Native Americans helped them survive the brutal winter. However, this produced a bountiful harvest. And, as part of the celebration, the Pilgrims and natives joined in a three-day harvest festival to commemorate “Thanksgiving.”

While history professors consider this a myth, the next “thanksgiving” meal didn’t occur again until June of 1676. Then, as part of its annual celebration of good fortune, Charlestown, Massachusetts, declared June 29 thanksgiving day, which did not include Indengious people, in 1676.

As a celebration of the patriotic victory over the British at Saratoga, all 13 colonies came together in October of 1777 for a one-time “Thanksgiving.” But, despite its long history, Thanksgiving as we know it didn’t come to be until over 150 years later. While George Washington did proclaim it a National Holiday in 1789, Abraham Lincoln declared it to take place on the last Thursday in November in 1863. And, finally, Congress sanctioned it as a legal holiday in 1941.

Today, we all have various meanings of Thanksgiving. For some, it’s a long weekend, gathering with friends, or eating until you feel like you’re going to explode. But, at its core, the idea of Thanksgiving has always been about gratitude.

Throughout the centuries, it’s expressed gratitude for survival, recognition of a flourishing community, and the defeat of the British. Thanksgiving has also evolved over the centuries as families added their own customs, preserving what is most valuable to them.

Thanksgiving, however, is a time when we recognize what we’re thankful for. Then, we “give thanks” by extending ourselves and helping others. And, it turns out, that this is beneficial to our bodies, minds, and relationships.

Why Gratitude is Good

“In a series of studies, my colleagues and I have helped people systematically cultivate gratitude, usually by keeping a ‘gratitude journal’ in which they regularly record the things for which they’re grateful,” wrote Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude.

People often keep gratitude journals for just three weeks in our studies; gratitude journals seem simple and basic, adds Emmons. But the results are astonishing. “We’ve studied more than one thousand people, from ages eight to 80, and found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits;.”

Physical

  • Improved immune system
  • Having fewer aches and pains
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Engage in more physical activity and take better care of themselves
  • Wake up feeling refreshed after a long night’s sleep

Psychological

  • A higher level of positive emotions
  • Feeling more alive, alert, and awake
  • An increase in joy and pleasure
  • An elevation in optimism and happiness

Social

  • Being more kind, generous, and compassionate
  • A more forgiving attitude
  • Increasingly outgoing
  • A diminished sense of loneliness and isolation.

Since gratitude, after all, is a social emotion, the social benefits here are particularly significant, states Emmons. Relationships are strengthened by appreciation because we can see how we have been affirmed and supported by others.

Of course, Emmons and his team aren’t the only ones who have researched gratitude. For example, Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, found that giving thanks increased happiness. Several other studies have also found that when individuals express gratitude to their spouses or partners, they feel more positive toward them and more comfortable with expressing concerns regarding the relationship, notes Harvard Health Publishing.

Furthermore, managers who remember to say “thank you” to their employees may find that they’re motivated to work harder.

12 Ways to Practice Gratitude

Want to tap into the power of gratitude? No problem. Here are 12 simple, albeit effective, ways to practice gratitude.

1. Keep a gratitude journal.

If you have 15-minutes to spare, then spend that time writing in a gratitude journal. Besides not being time-consuming, there’s no right or wrong way to go about this. To get you started, though, here are some pointers from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley;

  • Take a moment to list five things you are thankful for. It’s essential that you keep a physical record of this exercise instead of just thinking about it.
  • Specify as much as you can.
  • Prioritize depth over breadth.
  • Make it personal.
  • Don’t just add; try subtracting.
  • You should consider good things a gift.
  • Take time to enjoy surprises.
  • Write regularly, whether daily or weekly.

2. Write a “thank you” letter.

John Kralik’s life changed after an ex-girlfriend sent him a thank you note for the present he gave her for Christmas. This moved him to write daily thank-you notes. As a result, he was able to gain friendships, find inner peace, and improve his physical health. He later went on to author “365 Thanks: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life.”

In short, an excellent way to express gratitude is to write a thank-you note. After all, who doesn’t enjoy receiving and reading such a note out-of-the-blue? And, this might even be an effective way to strengthen or even repair relationships.

3. Find gratitude in your challenges

“Gratitude is not only about being thankful for positive experiences,” Janet Miller writes in Forbes. “Sometimes thinking about negative or difficult situations can help to really nail down what you have to be thankful for.”

Buddhist master Jack Kornfield recalls a lesson he gave to a man whose grandson struggled with drug addiction while his son and daughter-in-law battled it. “Despite all that he had been through, the man was still able to find gratitude for the amount of compassion he had learned to show and the impact he was able to have on other people,” Miller states.

She suggests taking the time to examine some of your own past experiences and think about how they have helped shape you into who you are today.

4. Remind yourself that each day is a gift.

I’m sure that you’ve come across this saying before, but it really works!

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”

But, in the hustle and bustle of daily life, how can we appreciate this sentiment? You could set aside a couple of minutes each day to meditate. Or, and this is a personal favorite. Just slow down occasionally and appreciate something. For example, when driving home the other day, the sunset was so beautiful that I pulled over and admired it for a minute.

5. Give thanks at meals.

When you’re eating, take a moment to recall what you’re thankful for. You can even invite others, like your family, to share as well. In fact, this simple daily gratitude habit has been championed by James Clear for years.

Why does this work so well? Well, it’s incredibly small and is tied to another daily habit, which Clear has dubbed habit stacking. It can also help put you in a positive frame of mind and remind you that almost every day is a good day.

6. Use visual reminders.

“Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude,” says Emmons. “Oftentimes, the best visual reminders are other people.”

7. Create gratitude affirmations.

The act of saying affirmations aloud or silently helps us remove self-limiting beliefs. Affirmations have the power to change our lives, according to the author and spiritual leader Louise Hay. Why? Because this encourages us to step out of our victim role.

8. Share the love.

Researchers have found that conveying gratitude can foster stronger relationships. With that in mind, let others know how much you appreciate them. Some suggestions would be;

  • Complement people daily.
  • Send a random “thank you” text.
  • Invite a colleague or friend out for coffee, lunch, or dinner.
  • Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones.
  • Volunteer with family, friends, or employees.
  • If you have the availability, help co-workers or your friends complete a project.

9. Go for gratitude walks.

As Hippocrates famously said, “walking is the best medicine.” It turns out the Greek physician had a point. A walk can improve cardiovascular health, brain function, and immune function, among other things. And, it can also be paired with gratitude.

Savoring walks, or gratitude walks, combine these benefits with gratitude cultivation. When you walk with gratitude, you’re essentially feeling grateful and calm. The effectiveness of this technique can be markedly increased by practicing it for just 15-20 minutes. And, it’s pretty straightforward.

Just take a leisurely stroll. As you do, take note of breathing and appreciate what you see around you. It could be anything from that sunset I mentioned above, children laughing, or the smell of freshly mowed grass.

10. Be kind to yourself.

It’s important to show gratitude to yourself as well through self-compassion. For example, being thankful for your body and mind is a simple strategy. For example, reminding yourself of a recent promotion, high grade on a test, or marathon that you completed.

Research also shows that expressing gratitude can improve self-care too.

11. Try not complaining for 21-days.

This exercise was popularized by multiple #1 International Bestselling authors, an award-winning trainer and speaker, and the founder of A Complaint Free World Will Bowen. And the rules are simple.

On one wrist, place an elastic band. After each complaint, swap it for the other wrist. This process should be repeated until the band remains on one wrist for 21-days. In the event of a complaint, you need to start over from the beginning.

There is an exception, though;

What I will allow is using constructive criticism; in the sense that the criticism is “well-meant” or in a positive way. The criticism is intended to serve a purpose which is constructive, or which the targeted person would approve of.

12. Fill a gratitude jar.

When you need a reminder of all the good things you have in your life, you can reflect on a gratitude jar at the end of the year, when it’s full, or whenever you need a pick-me-up.

Put a jar on your counter and write down anything you’re thankful for whenever something positive happens. It will probably fill up within no time.

For the last few years, during the month of November, my wife had everyone in the family say what we are thankful for. So we place what we have written in a November advent Calendar (it’s a Fall tree with pocket leaves on it). It is interesting what the kids say and also what is said by those who join us. So we can all be more thankful.

Image credit: Cottonbro; Pexels; Thank you!

The post 12 Ways to Practice Gratitude this Thanksgiving and Beyond appeared first on Calendar.



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