November, and Thanksgiving specifically, are traditional times to take stock of everything for which we are grateful. I try to do this often, not just in November, and especially when I am feeling particularly sad or anxious or down.
Research has shown that “counting our blessings” has a positive impact on our mental health. It can help reframe our mindset and provide a more positive outlook. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, “relive” good experiences, improve health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships.
Studies have also looked at how being grateful can improve relationships. For example, a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person, but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship. Managers who remember to say “thank you” to people who work for them find that those employees feel motivated to work harder. These examples benefit both people in the relationship.
What are ways to practice gratitude?
n Write a thank-you note (or email or text)
n Thank someone mentally (just thinking about it provides benefits (to you, but not them))
n Keep a gratitude journal or list (it doesn’t need to be fancy or expansive)
n Count your blessings (literally)
n Pray or meditate
n And most importantly, be consistent and practice often
Your list of things you are grateful for might not be the same as mine, but it doesn’t matter so much what is on the list or how long the list is, but more the process of getting in the “Thankful” mindset. If you’re having a hard time getting there this year, intentionally seek out some positivity by asking friends and family what they are thankful for, searching for -gratitude or -thankful on social media, or watching/reading uplifting movies, books and stories. As I make my list, my Cooperative Extension family and community are very near the top, as are simple things like sunny days, a good book, and laughing!
Contact Amanda Root at Cornell Cooperative Extension of JeffersonCounty, 315-788-8450 or email email@example.com.