23 Nov The Thanksgiving Holiday & the Practice of Gratitude by Sara Loughlin, LCSW
The Thanksgiving holiday is centered around family, friends, nourishment, and the concept of gratitude– giving thanks for what we have. Having a mindset of gratitude in everyday life can be a great tool to use against depression and anxiety and the negative thoughts that accompany them. Bringing our attention to what is going well in our lives, despite the things that are not working out as we had hoped, forces us to take stock of all the good things we have. These are things that we most likely take for granted on a day-to-day basis. The comedian Louie CK has a hilarious take on this regarding air travel. He talks about how you get on a plane and people are complaining about people putting the seats back, leg room, etc., and we all completely take it for granted and don’t bat an eye that we are participating in the miracle of actually flying through the air. If we could try to harness just some of that sense of amazement and appreciation that we have in our lives, our perception of many of the seemingly overwhelming problems that we face would diminish into minor inconveniences.
So how do we cultivate more gratitude in our lives? Like many things, it is something that we need to practice. We have to make an effort to recognize the positive. One way to do this is by coming up with 5 things that we are grateful for at the end of each day. It has to be 5 new things each day, because if you just list the same 5 things every day this practice loses its effectiveness. If you can write these down in a journal, it trains your brain to start focusing on the good things that happen each day versus what didn’t turn out the way we had hoped. Another way we can cultivate gratitude is by coming up with a list of all the bigger things we are grateful for and integrating this into our meditation practice. We could also work towards being more mindful of enhancing that sense of wonder and appreciation for things such as the beauty of nature, the positive people who are in our lives, and the journey we are on for self-betterment, for example. Best wishes and hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.