Being Thankful this Season: Are You Doing Gratitude Wrong?
The holidays and the upcoming New Year make this a great time to reflect and be thankful for all we have. The spirit of Thanksgiving is a perfect example. Yet, it can be easy to get caught up in the busyness of the season and not take the time to really feel gratitude. We may quickly come up with a list of things we’re grateful for without noticing a connection with them.
Research shows that if we want to truly experience and enjoy the many benefits of gratitude, it needs to be heartfelt and more than just a thought. It’s funny how I can notice the difference. When I focus on a deeper connection, there is an emotional and physical shift. Studies show that this is caused by chemical changes in our body that improve our physical and emotional wellbeing. In his book, “The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time,” Dr. Alex Korb shares that gratitude acts like an antidepressant, increasing the feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
How can we move beyond thinking about gratitude to feeling it? Various approaches will work differently for each of us, but here are some of my favorite strategies you can try:
- Have a discussion with someone else. Share what you’re grateful for and provide background and context to the other person. Talking can help bring it to life.
- Reflect on why you’re grateful for something or someone. Why is it helpful or beneficial for you or your life? Keep digging to find the true “Why.”
- Consider how your life would be without this thing or person. The trick is to do this without taking it to the point that you feel sad about the possibility of losing it or them—just enough to really feel appreciation.
- Create a mood or environment that makes it easier to feel the emotion of gratitude. Maybe it starts with listening to a favorite song that touches your heart or remembering a special time that helps you feel heart-centered.
Give one or two of these a try this month and reflect on the difference between just thinking vs. feeling gratitude. Things you might choose to appreciate could include a person, a place, a situation, a thing, an opportunity, or even something you’re glad you don’t have. You could find things from your current life, your past, or even things you’re looking forward to. It might just make your holiday season even more enjoyable and meaningful.