Thanksgiving is a time for all of us to be thankful and reflect on what is good in our lives. Unfortunately, for some of us, this can be tricky. The holidays can spark mixed emotions. Some look forward to the holiday season while others would rather avoid it because of the anxiety and stress it can bring. During the holidays, it’s important to remember that this is a time for reflection and gratitude. It’s not about finding the right present or how much you spent on your loved one.
Psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have studied the effects of gratitude1. In one study, three different groups wrote down things that happened during their week. One group wrote down the things that they were grateful for. The second group wrote down irritating or unpleasant things that occurred. The third group wrote down their experiences, regardless of being positive or negative. The psychologists found that after 10 weeks of journaling, the individuals in the first group were more optimistic and had an overall better feeling about their lives. Another study by Dr. Emmons shows that expressing gratitude increases happiness while reducing depression2.
If you start feeling overwhelmed this holiday season, take some time to reflect on the things you are grateful for. Jotting down things that you’re thankful for will help you refocus on the things you have rather than the things you lack. If you don’t have time to journal on a regular basis, saying thank you mentally or meditating can cultivate gratitude. An attitude of gratitude nurtures happiness and will help ease the stresses of the holiday season.