by Tony Garascia
In this busy holiday season many of us place a lot of emphasis on happiness, usually by making others feel good by hosting parties, giving gifts, and visiting friends and families. Sometimes our emphasis on making others happy ends up backfiring on us. But, unfortunately, we can over commit, over prepare, and over fatigue ourselves in our efforts to meet our own expectations.
This gets more complicated when we have experienced loss of any sort. It could be a divorce or separation, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the loss of health. Any sort of loss can magnify the gap between our inner feelings of sadness and the expectations of being happy or doing something for others to enhance their happiness. This can add up to one huge letdown.
Is there any remedy for the holiday letdown? One thought might be to shift your thinking from happiness to gratitude.
Dr. Paul Mills, at the University of San Diego School of Medicine, recently did a study that measured the health benefits of a grateful attitude. He surveyed patients who had some form of damage to their hearts and he found that the ones who were actively more grateful had better health outcomes in recovery from heart attack, infections, and other health events. They were less depressed, slept better, and reported having more energy. Turns out that the phrase “a grateful heart” positively affects both the mental and physical health of the person!
How do we cultivate an attitude of gratitude?
Three suggestions come to mind:
- Keep a gratitude journal. Make a habit of writing down the people, relationships, and experiences for which you are grateful. Some people carry a small journal around with them and write things down when a beautiful scene hits them or when they have an encounter with another that causes gratitude.
- Tell people that you are grateful. Share your experience. Don’t worry of coming across to hopeful or too joy filled, the world is beset with so many difficulties that people will just appreciate you for appreciating them.
- Turn your thoughts of gratitude into action by writing a letter or email to someone, volunteering more, or giving gifts without any expectation of getting something in return.
Despite all the hassles and busyness of the season, this time can be a great opportunity to affirm all that is good about our world and the relationships we have!
Tony Garascia is Samaritan Counseling Center’s Clinical Director. To learn more about Tony and the rest of our clinical staff,
visit our website!
Interested in starting your own Gratitude Journal? Click on the files below to download a printable journal and a list of inspiring questions to get your started!
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