Cultivating Gratitude

When thinking about the holiday season we think about togetherness, spending time with people we are close to, and seeing family members that we may not have seen for a long time. For some, this brings up feelings of joy and excitement, and for others it brings up sadness and stress.

Cultivating gratitude doesn’t mean that we dismiss difficult feelings that may arise, it means that we allow ourselves access to all of our emotions. By now we are all aware that avoiding our emotions is unhelpful to us, and stops our healing in its tracks. It is beneficial to acknowledge our feelings, because it allows us to validate ourselves. The key point is to not stay in our heavy emotions, and that is where gratitude comes in. It assists with reminding us all that there are positive, wonderful things that life has to offer.

Cultivating gratitude allows us to practice shifting our focus so that our mind doesn’t remain stuck in a negative headspace. It reminds us that even through difficult experiences, there are things and people that bring peace and joy to our lives.

Gratitude is acknowledging the things that go well, along with our little victories in life.

  1. Each day identify 2-3 things that went well, and these do not have to be big things, it could be as simple as your roommate saving you some milk for your morning coffee, it could be the co-worker that saved you an office donut, or it could even be things that you do for yourself (getting flowers from the market, or taking a stroll).

  2. Thank someone, or personally write them a thank you note to show your appreciation.

  3. Create moments of joy by surrounding yourself with loving, supportive people.

  4. Go outside and take in your surroundings. Take in the colors in the sky, the trees or buildings around you, the holiday lights, attend to the beautiful, soothing sounds you hear, and focus on the breeze that you feel. Appreciate what is around you.

  5. An act of kindness for yourself and others.

Gratitude allows you to acknowledge the good in yourself, in life and in others. Simply saying thank you to someone is showing gratitude for whatever they did, big or small. Being grateful to yourself for your accomplishments, for trying something new, for speaking up for yourself. Saying thank you and acknowledging the friend that checks in on you, the person who remembers your signature drink at the coffee shop, and the person that makes you feel seen.

As you see, gratitude doesn’t have to be this big gesture, it could be as simple as I’m grateful for waking up, for my friend asking me to hang out, for having my favorite dessert, for getting fresh air, for this day. Practicing gratitude reminds us that there are positive aspects of our lives, and practicing it can be as simple as saying thank you.