Many of us may have taken turns going around the dinner table with family or friends to share what we were thankful for last week, but expressing gratitude doesn’t have to stop there. And for those of us who perhaps spend holidays alone, I have been there. I know how feeling lonely takes over resulting in a negative downward spiral. I know how easy it is to go to the dark place. Again, I have been there.
Before I continue on, I want to say that the encouragement to express gratitude as a self-care strategy is not to be confused with encouraging the thought, “others have it worse than me, so my challenges or feelings don’t matter.” There is always someone who seems to have it worse, but that does not mean you should discount your challenges and circumstances. They matter. Your emotions are valid. Ask for help when you need it.
Regardless of our circumstances, expressing gratitude is good for our health. Have you ever noticed negative energy around individuals who were expressing gratitude? Me neither.
Expressing gratitude creates positive energy and positivity spreads like wildfire. In much of positive psychology research, expressing gratitude is positively correlated with feeling a greater sense of happiness, improved health, increased resiliency, and the ability to build strong relationships (Healthbeat, Harvard Health Publishing). Consider applying one or more of these four simple strategies to express gratitude:
Start your day with gratitude
Reflect on three things you are grateful for no matter how big or small. Do you need to write this down? I think it helps to make the connection, but you don’t have to! I typically reflect on this during my quiet time in the morning. Do the items or topics need to be extravagant? Not at all, but they can be! Today I am grateful for the following three things:
- Warm beverages…there is something so comforting about hot tea or coffee.
- Aromatherapy candles. Anthropologie’s Capri Blue Volcano is my absolute fave.
- Seasons. As much as a I detest cold weather, I take joy in changes of scenery and seeing nature run it’s course.
End your day with gratitude
Take five minutes before bed to journal an excerpt of gratitude. This can be absolutely anything, recent or from the past. Something recent from my journal includes being aware and appreciative of the altruistic actions of someone in my life who started as a stranger and is now an individual who I’ve considered naming my first-born after. Again, not everything has to be so grandiose. I’ve also wrote being thankful for dark chocolate and wine after a rough day!
Thank you notes aren’t just for job interviews or after showers
How often do you write a detailed thank you note, email, or text message to someone? Writing a thank you message to someone works double time–it allows for you to reflect on your gratitude and it brings joy to the individual receiving the positive communication. Souls are full. It’s a win-win! I’m a fan of a hand-written note, but shooting a friend or an acquaintance a detailed text message or email about something you really appreciate or love about them can work wonders!
Focus on strengths in both the workplace and in relationships
Practice appreciation of what is going well rather than only expressing what could be going better. I have been on the receiving end of being told what specifically about my work is valued in addition to being told, “I appreciate you.” It makes for such a positive work environment. Often in my work, I now make sure I express my appreciation rather than assuming someone knows how thankful I am for them and their work. Can you say increased productivity all around? Focusing on strengths doesn’t have to stop at the workplace, when you show appreciation in friendships and other relationships, it is like sprinkling magic fairy dust. Others are more inclined to continue actions they are being shown appreciation for! Is everything made of rainbows and smiles all the time? No. BUT, creating an environment where expressing gratitude is the norm allows concerns to be expressed in a much more comfortable and accepted space.
Express gratitude daily. You’ll thank yourself ;).
You do YOU!