As we enter the holiday season, it is helpful to keep in mind that this time can come with a mix of emotions. Not to mention, we are still in a pandemic and continue to be faced with uncertainty. Some people approach the holiday season with high expectations of excitement, while others struggle with feelings of sadness, depression or anxiety.
There is one aspect of the Thanksgiving season that can actually help us to feel more positive emotions. The action of being grateful, or expressing gratitude, is consistently associated with greater happiness. A leading researcher in the field of Positive Psychology, Dr. Martin E. Seligman, tested the impact of various psychology interventions on people (2005). The most significant increase in “happiness scores” were reported when an individual was asked to deliver a letter of gratitude to someone they had never properly thanked.
So, how can we cultivate gratitude and increase the “happiness scores” in our lives and the lives of our children? Here are some simple ideas to try:
- Keep a gratitude journal for 21 days: each day note at least 3 things you are grateful for
- Write a thank you note: choose someone you never properly thanked
- Meditate: sit silently, repeating thoughts of gratitude
- Find ways to give back to others: volunteer or do a “random act of kindness”
- Share with your family and friends things that you are grateful for: you can do this over a simple text message, or at the Thanksgiving dinner table
This holiday season, try to be more mindful of things that you are grateful for and model this for your children and those around you. You may find a stronger sense of happiness by using one or more of these practices. And remember, if you still find yourself having moments of stress or sadness during the holiday season, that is completely normal. Try talking with a trusted friend or family member and share your honest thoughts. Most people find this practice also leads to an increased “happiness score.”
Here’s to Your Well Being!
Julia Hayward, LCSW