Giving Thanks: Gratitude Journals for a Meaningful Holiday Season

The holidays can be happy, lonely, busy, quiet, stressful, relaxing and everything in between. The holiday season is full of opportunities for gratitude, and the chance to nurture practicing gratitude on a regular basis. You may be wondering, what is gratitude and why does it matter? Gratitude can broadly be defined as what is valuable and meaningful to oneself. Using gratitude as a therapeutic intervention can help increase positive thoughts and therefore, positive experiences.

Why does gratitude matter?

The way we view the world has a direct impact on our physiological and psychological well-being, per positive psychology theories.

Practicing gratitude can help us feel more mindful, more present, more connected to ourselves as well as more connected to our loved ones. It plays a pivotal role in enhancing positive well-being, as it encourages individuals to focus on the positive aspects of life, leading to increased levels of happiness and life satisfaction.

7 Reasons to practice gratitude this holiday season

Gratitude is particularly relevant during the holiday season because it enriches the holiday experience, eases stress, strengthens relationships, combats loneliness, promotes generosity, fosters mindfulness, and helps individuals cope with challenges that may arise during this time.

  1. Enhanced Holiday Joy: Focusing on gratitude can amplify the joy and positive experiences that come with holiday celebrations, making them more meaningful.
  2. Reduced Stress: Gratitude helps reduce holiday stress by shifting the focus from perfection and consumerism to appreciation for what we have, easing the pressure to meet unrealistic expectations.
  3. Strengthened Relationships: Expressing gratitude to loved ones fosters stronger bonds and a sense of togetherness, which are at the heart of many holiday traditions.
  4. Combatting Loneliness: For those who may feel lonely during the holidays, gratitude can help by fostering a sense of connection with others and appreciating the support they do have.
  5. Promoting Generosity: The holiday season often involves giving to others, and gratitude can motivate individuals to be more generous and charitable.
  6. Mindful Celebration: Gratitude encourages a mindful approach to holiday festivities, helping people savor the moments, traditions, and connections that make this time of year special.
  7. Coping with Loss: For those dealing with loss or difficult circumstances, gratitude can be a source of solace and a way to find light amid the darkness.

Studies show that practicing gratitude regularly predicts lower heart rate and blood pressure, better sleep quality, more exercise, less stress, more positive expectations and reflections, and greater feelings of appreciation toward others.

Prompting Grateful Thoughts

Sometimes, we can get lost in worry about the past and future and we let the present and the gratitude associated with it pass us by. Practicing gratitude can be an individual, personal experience, or it can be a strengthening bonding experience for families and loved ones.

Pro tip: To prompt a shared gratitude experience with loved ones, consider asking them their daily “rose and thorn” with rose being something they are grateful for, and a thorn being something that did not go well that day. When shared, loved ones may be able to problem solve, offer a different perspective or validate their loved one’s experience.

Action step: Practice your own self-care and self-compassion by starting your own gratitude journal. If you don’t know where to begin, here are some simple prompts to promote positive thinking in the form of gratitude. Below are some prompts to get you started on embracing a gratitude-filled mindset:

What made you happy today?

What are the qualities you most admire in your favorite people?

Can you look at a negative situation from a different perspective?

What did you accomplish today?

What makes you proud?

Make a list of things you are grateful for that day

What do you appreciate about yourself? Your family?

What is something difficult you have gone through and what did you learn from the experience?

Make a list of your favorite things (food, place, people, song, movie, etc.)

Remember: start small and do not get discouraged. Building a habit takes time, but gratitude is a routine worth putting the effort into. Choose a prompt to start with, and jot down other prompt ideas. Try to make time for your gratitude journal daily, even in the busy holiday season, even if you just jot down three things you are grateful for from that day.

Shifting Your Attitude on Gratitude

Transform your thoughts and mindset with a perspective of gratitude. Implementing this into your routine and habits can make it easier and more natural to shift into a positive, accepting mindset.

Sometimes, we need to get some support getting our mental health on track to shift to a place of embracing gratitude. Fortunately, support is available to help tackle issues that cloud our grateful judgment. Making changes alone can be intimidating, so feel free to reach out to professionals here in Chicago for more information on the science of gratitude and the evidence-based interventions that can help you be successful. Many psychotherapy interventions seamlessly incorporate gratitude to help support and guide you.

Add new meanings and perspectives to your days with gratitude and positivity. Your mental and physical health will thank you, and you just might find yourself feeling grateful for that as well. Click here to connect to a professional here in Chicago to help you develop a gratitude practice that works for you

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