The month of November tends to be ignored. It’s major holiday is Thanksgiving and most people go straight from Halloween to Christmas, and I get it. Christmas is exciting—it has its own genre of music and movies, cute decorations and the opportunity to get and give presents. Thanksgiving doesn’t quite have the draw or buildup that Christmas has; but this year, I’m challenging myself to celebrate Thanksgiving for a month. How, you might ask? By naming one thing I’m grateful for—truly grateful for—every day for a month.
In high school, one of my English teachers had us do this as an assignment. He had us write one person a letter every day, sincerely thanking them for what they had done for us. He gave us a possible list of people to thank, including past and current teachers, friends, family, coaches, advisors, mailmen and more. He wasn’t the only one who encouraged me to practice gratitude. My campus ministry director from high school still posts 30 days of thankfulness each year on her Facebook and encourages others to comment what they’re thankful as a way to participate.
Gratitude is important. Focusing both on what we have and the outpouring of love we receive from other people is a concrete way to focus on the positive. Plus, I’ll let you in on a little secret: it makes a huge difference.
Practicing gratitude has proven effects that include increased mental strength, self-esteem, better sleep, fewer physical aches and reduced toxic emotions like envy and frustration. There are psychologists who actually study the effects of gratitude. Robert Emmons is “the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude,” according to Greater Good Magazine.
It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed amidst the stress of college and it’s hard to see the value in taking this month to focus on giving thanks, but I’m challenging myself (and now I’m challenging all of you) to take time to be really truly grateful throughout these next weeks. Christmas will still be there when you’re done and you might be able to appreciate the season of giving even more afterward!