Thanksgiving is right around the corner. The time for reflecting upon the things for which we are grateful has arrived, and most of us will do just that as we gather with family for Thanksgiving Dinner. We will say, “I’m grateful for my home,” or I’m thankful for my family.” Some will even say, “In light of these trying economic times, I’m grateful that I have work.” But how often do we really take the time to feel these broad statements of gratitude?
Know that the expression of gratitude is always a good thing, especially when the gratitude is genuine. Even though the stress of the holidays can leave us feeling more tired and overwhelmed than grateful and satisfied, it is important that we make the time to find, list, share, and create opportunities in which to feel grateful. Do this each and every day and it will bring more meaning to all of your days, not just the holidays.
A gratitude journal is a great way of doing this. In a special book, made just for your reflections on gratitude, make a note of the action or deed that was done and by whom. Tell why you are grateful, and how the experience your citing makes you feel. Journal entries might read:
- On 11/18 John offered to give the baby her bath because I was feeling under the weather. I’m grateful for John’s considerate nature. I felt relieved knowing that I had his support because I was exhausted. His help means one less thing for me to worry about.
- On 11/19 Karen sent me a message just to say hi. She wanted to make plans to spend time together. I’m grateful to have someone so thoughtful in my life. It feels nice to know she was thinking of me.
Keep track of your personal attributes and accomplishments, things that you appreciate about you, whether they are physical or mental. Be grateful for your positive qualities. Pat yourself on the back.
- On 11/20 I made dinner and it turned out well. I could tell it was appreciated and I’m grateful that my cooking is improving. I feel good about myself.
- On 11/21 a coworker brought in donuts. I was tempted, but I’m grateful that my new attitude towards a healthier me made it easy to say, “No thank you.” I’m getting closer and closer to my health goals. On cloud nine!
When you’re done journaling, if you’re able, share the things that appear as blessings in your life with the people you care about; encourage them to do the same. It will do wonders for your state of mind and will even help build your self-esteem. Imagine how rewarding it will be to three months, six months, or a year from now look back on your journey in gratitude and actually see the strides you have made.
If you are having difficulty listing positive attributes for which you are grateful, help yourself by helping others. Feeling gratitude is a satisfying experience, but giving the people around you a reason to be grateful can sometimes be even more rewarding. A genuine smile, asking someone, How are you? and actually caring about the answer-these are all things we can do to be a bright spot in someone’s day. When we create opportunities for others to be grateful, we feel good about ourselves, and feeling good is crucial to your mental well-being and a great way to boost self-esteem.
As we celebrate November, the month of Gratitude, I hope you take my words with you and continue to express gratitude all year around.
This article is intended for general education purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional counseling or medical care. If you are interested in seeking professional counseling, please contact The Stone Foundation by clicking here, or by phone at 410-296-2004.
Lauren Greenberg, MS, LGPC is a graduate of Loyola’s Counseling Practitioner Program. For three years, Lauren provided hotline crisis intervention to residents of Baltimore City. She also has experience providing counseling to students at a local college for issues including grief and loss, depression, substance abuse, self-harm, anxiety, and trauma. Her professional interests and areas of study include positive psychology, promoting social and emotional competence, and women’s issues.