‘Tis the season that calls us to “over-everything”…To overeat, overspend, over-socialize, and just plain ol’ overdo it all. Unfortunately, all this overdoing can cause us to become rather ungrateful and can lead to burnout pretty quickly. However, if we have a gameplan going into the holiday season that is devised to protect ourselves from becoming ungrateful, we will have a whole lot more fun and be healthier to boot.
Let’s take a look at what our own Dr. Joshua Levitt has to say about gratitude and then explore some ways we can be more grateful every day.
Last week, on the day before Thanksgiving, I got an interesting email. It was from a literary agent at a big publishing company, and it was sent to me and several of my colleagues who are in the process of collaborating on creating a human nutrition textbook for medical professionals. (More on that project later…) Anyway, the agent said that it was daunting to be writing to a group of nutrition experts on the eve of a holiday that is devoted to gluttony!
I took it upon myself to suggest to the group that we might all be better off if we remembered that the Thanksgiving holiday ought to be more about gratitude than it is about gluttony. I think you would all agree that we are in the midst of a big cultural shift that has changed the way that many people view the holiday season. Starting at Halloween and marching right through New Years Day…the holidays have been infused with commercialism, stress, and lots and lots of food. Sometimes, it seems that we’ve lost our way.
And with that, I’d like to re-acquaint you with one of the simplest and most powerful lifestyle treatments there is…gratitude.
How being grateful is good for you
Being a grateful person can have a profound impact on your health indirectly and directly. Research shows that gratitude can usher in relaxation, improve the immune system, and even decrease blood pressure. Not only that, but grateful people also tend to have better health habits such as eating nutritious food, exercising, and even avoiding risky behaviors.
With the holiday season in full swing, it is good to slow down a bit and focus on some ways to practice what Dr. Joshua Levitt calls one of “The most powerful lifestyle treatments there is… gratitude.” Here are some great ways to focus on being more grateful at any time of the year.
Speak gratitude out loud – This is a great habit to cultivate if you have children. If not, it is great to do with a friend or your spouse daily. Take the time to speak about three things that happened during the day that were awesome. Just the simple act of speaking gratitude out loud can help you become more aware of the need to acknowledge it.
Keep a gratitude journal – Keeping a gratitude journal allows you to look back over the days, months, and even years at all of the things you are grateful for. Just like speaking, recording your gratitude on paper is a highly therapeutic exercise that can bring much optimism and positivity to your life. Each evening, just write down three things that you were grateful for that day…it does not need to be profound. Even a good meal, a good movie, or a sunny day are worthy of gratitude.
Send out messages of thankfulness – With all of the immediate access we have to technology today, why not use it to send out good vibes? Take the time each week to send out messages to three people expressing your thankfulness. This is a great way to spread the joy of gratitude to others. Email, text, or social media can be a positive force, and they make it so easy to get the good word out!
Look outward, not inward – It is easy to get caught up in ourselves, always focusing on our inner narratives about how things should have gone. However, you will feel more grateful when you shift your focus to others. Empathy for others can breed a sense of gratitude. Merely connecting and caring can bring more joy not only for the recipient but also for yourself.
Thank your partner – Thanking that special someone in your life helps to build trust and intimacy. Leave little notes around the house or slip one in their lunchbox, reminding them of just how special they are to you. Put toothpaste on their toothbrush, so it’s ready for them. Use a whiteboard or a corkboard to leave special messages to each other.
Develop a glass-half-full attitude – By making a simple shift from glass-half-empty to glass-half-full, you can create a bubble of gratitude in your life that will bring joy to you and others. Optimism precedes gratitude and paves the way for many good things to come. Optimistic people are healthier and live longer than those who focus on the negatives all the time.
-The UpWellness Team