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Thanksgiving All Year Round

With Thanksgiving just behind us, many of us have had weekends filled with family and friends, delicious meals, and untouched textbooks. Ideally, our weekends would also have included – well – giving thanks. In elementary school, this might’ve been an activity imposed upon us in the form of writing a list on a turkey-bordered piece of paper, or something of the like. Nowadays, though, some of us don’t put much emphasis on this aspect of Thanksgiving; or, if we do, the perspective might be that it’s a seasonal thing that comes and goes.

This shouldn’t be the case, however. Being grateful is super beneficial, regardless of the time of year! Of course we are always affected by difficulties, annoyances and tragedies. Although those should not be ignored, gratitude is a way for us to put things into perspective, and to actively acknowledge the goodness in our lives. Such goodness often originates from external sources; expressing gratitude is a humbling activity that can connect us to things outside of, and bigger than, ourselves.

Gratitude is an outlet through which we can celebrate the present, appreciate the past, and relish what is to come. Research in the field of positive psychology consistently connects gratitude with greater happiness. In fact, practicing gratitude is correlated with the following:

Magnified positive emotions

Reduced aggression and enhanced empathy

Strengthened relationships

Greater self-esteem

Improved resilience in the face of adversity and stress

Better quality of sleep

Stronger immune systems

Greater satisfaction with life

Notice the phrase, “practicing gratitude.” I put it this way because being grateful can sometimes go against inherent human nature. It’s often easy and somewhat cathartic to complain or to focus on the negative aspects of a situation. This is why gratitude truly takes practice. With it, you can start to experience the benefits mentioned above. And as you practice, it gets easier and more natural; eventually, you might even find your whole worldview to shift!

To help you get started, here are some suggestions for ways that you can practice gratitude:

  • “Stop to smell the roses.” As the expression goes, try to notice the things in your day that you usually take for granted.

  • If you find yourself focusing on something or someone’s negative trait, try to shift your focus to a positive trait instead.

  • If you’re in a bad situation, ask yourself what you can learn from it and what you might be thankful for when you look at the problem retrospectively.

  • Keep a gratitude diary/list/blog/app, and write in it every day or week, or as often as you can.

    • The entries can be about anything, from that stranger who smiled at you while you walked by, to your appreciation for the country that you live in.

    • A fun spin on this idea is to have a gratitude jar and write things you are thankful for on slips of paper. Writing in a journal can eventually start to feel like a chore, so this idea may be appealing if you want something quick and Tumblr-worthy.

  • Write a gratitude letter/text/email to someone, or simply remind someone in person that you appreciate them, and tell them why.

  • Each day, try to give a compliment to someone or vocalize something that you appreciate about your environment.

  • Perform an act of kindness for someone to whom you’re grateful for (anonymously or not).

  • Contribute to a cause you care about.

  • “Fake it ’til you make it.” You should not deliver gratuity from a disingenuous place, but sometimes if you’re in a bad mood, smiling or saying “thank you” anyway can help trigger positive emotions.

We all have the ability to practice gratitude, and every day (not just Thanksgiving) is an opportunity to do so.

Sources:

1 http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good

2 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude

3 http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude

4 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10413200.2014.889255

5 http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good

6 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1758-0854.2011.01049.x/abstract

7 http://www.webmd.com/women/features/gratitute-health-boost#1

8 http://people.hofstra.edu/jeffrey_j_froh/spring%202010%20web/10.1007_s10902-010-9195-9%5B1%5D.pdf

https://www.unstuck.com/gratitude/

Laura Chiu

Queen's U '19

Laura is a senior studying commerce at Queen's University (Kingston, Ontario, Canada). Last year, she spent a semester abroad in Hong Kong, and is eternally dazzled by and grateful for the experience. In her spare time, you can find her singing with the Caledonias (an a cappella group), binge-watching YouTube videos, or making her way through her foodie bucket list.
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