In the hustle and bustle of the holidays this year, take time to give yourself the divine gift of gratitude.
This time of year, many of us are busy planning and thinking of the perfect gifts to give to our loved ones and plan parties to entertain everyone. We’re so caught up in finding the best ways to give to others that we get lost in our tasks and struggle to slow down and enjoy life now in the moment as we are living it.
We lose the ability to be grateful for life’s magical moments that will pass us by if we aren’t paying attention. We want to relish in our holidays and cultivate lasting memories with family and friends, but what will you remember from your time if your mind is somewhere else?
Recent research from Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher and Professor of Psychology at The University of California, confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces the effects of depression (1).
In this article, we will provide you with practical tips you can start using immediately to improve your sense of gratitude, connection, and joy this holiday season.
Gratitude is more than just saying “thanks.” It represents “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness” (2). You can’t just say “thank you,” having gratitude is truly meaning it, and that comes from within.
Remind yourself that you are important
You can prioritize yourself without taking away from others. All the loved ones you are giving to and supporting need you, and they need you to be well. By taking care of yourself, you are inadvertently caring for others who need you too.
Set aside time to check in with yourself every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, Neurobiologist and Author of The Mindful Brain, Dr. Dan Siegel suggests just three minutes a day can be highly effective for improving mental health and overall well-being.
“The brain responds to repetition with more gusto than it does to duration,” Siegel says. His advice is to meditate for three minutes a day.
“Just as people practice daily dental hygiene by brushing their teeth, mindfulness meditation is a form of brain hygiene—it cleans out and strengthens the synaptic connections in the brain.” –Dr. Dan Siegel, The Mindful Brain (1).
No matter how demanding your life may be right now, you can give yourself just three minutes to focus on cultivating your inner peace and improve your emotional health.
Make a list of gratitude
Start a daily gratitude journal to write down a few things you are grateful for in that moment. No matter what your circumstance may be, you have bounty in this life if you just recognize it.
It could be as simple as a soft bed to lie in, or a little peace and quiet, or time spent with a loved one that day.
In Robert Emmons studies on the effects of gratitude on mental health and well-being, he included over 1,000 participants aged 8 – 80, and he has found that keeping a regular gratitude journal for just three weeks can enjoy a host of benefits, including experiencing higher levels of positive emotion, feeling more joy and pleasure in life, and more optimism and happiness (3).
Start with a small goal to create a life-long habit
Small, tangible rewards, like enjoying a piece of dark chocolate or allowing yourself a few minutes for an activity you enjoy, release dopamine in the brain which can keep you motivated to continue making changes (4).
Making changes in ourselves for the good is challenging, especially when we try to change too much then we set ourselves up for failure and lose motivation to keep trying.
In order to make these changes a habit, it’s important to remember we are tackling small goals here. A few minutes each day is very attainable.
(for more on the positive effects of dopamine, see this post)
We hope this article will help you to increase your sense of gratitude, prioritize yourself and make it a habit so you can enjoy more peace, positivity, and optimism in your day-to-day life, and a wonderful holiday season.
The Aura Mindfulness Team
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2 – Oxford