Thanksgiving post-2020 is not the same Thanksgiving as before. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our sense and meaning of holidays. Getting together with family and friends for a meal, something once taken for granted, has now become a great privilege.
As a society, losing so much these past two years has ironically presented us with an opportunity to be grateful for what we still have. Thanksgiving is a good time to re-examine our priorities on what we cherish in life and what we give meaning to. It’s important to acknowledge the benefits of gratitude and to learn how to incorporate it into our daily lives.
Benefits of being grateful
Forges Human Connection and Empathy
When feeling thankful, the areas operating in the brain are those associated with social interactions, moral judgment, and empathy. This means that we experience gratitude as a complex human emotion that brings us outside ourselves. It allows us to recognize someone else’s involvement in bettering our situation. When someone is grateful to us, this reciprocation is duplicated and we see ourselves as the cause for somebody else’s positive emotion.
Improvement of Mental health
Psychologically speaking, gratitude allows us to focus on the positive rather than the negative, regardless of external factors. By being thankful we are in a constant state of positivity. Researchers found that just by writing gratitude letters you can improve your mental health for up to three months. Interestingly, it was the lack of negative words, rather than the abundance of positive ones, that made the difference.
Improvement of Physical Health
Feeling gratitude lowers blood pressure and improves the quality of sleep. It’s also linked with a healthier lifestyle, better heart health, and fewer chronic illnesses.
Builds Resilience in Crisis Situations
Researchers found that positive emotions such as gratitude build resilience in the wake of a crisis. They also buffer depression and other negative post-trauma consequences.
Builds Positive Character Traits
Receiving gratitude and acknowledgment while being thankful for what you already have builds strong character. Practicing gratitude keeps you from feeling entitled and privileged. Instead of focusing on what you lack, you are forced to count your blessings. Receiving gratitude and acknowledgment for one’s work often leads to kinder and motivated employees who feel confident in taking on new challenges.
Commit to Being Grateful
Being grateful requires practice and maintenance. If we aren’t mindful of being thankful for our everyday experiences, we tend to start taking them for granted. So, commit to being grateful and practice it every day. Creating a tendency to find the good in our experiences and surroundings rewires our brain so that it’s easier to notice these things in our lives.
How to Create a Gratitude Habit
- Author and former monk Jay Shetty recommends spending the five minutes after waking and before going to bed listing three things we are grateful for.
- Robert Emmons, editor in chief of Positive Psychology, suggests making a list of all the things you are prone to take advantage in your life and then cross them off one by one, contemplating how the absence of that would impact your life.
- Start your Thanksgiving meal this holiday by asking what we are thankful for and how we has that circumstance, object or person made us better?
- Set your gratitude habits around cues, such as bedtime or mealtime. It will be hard to forget your blessings or to give thanks for them when you are consistent with a set time and schedule for precisely this.