With Thanksgiving around the corner, you may notice the topic of gratitude popping up more. However, gratitude does not need to just be associated with the holiday season. Research indicates that the art of practicing gratitude can have molecular impacts on the brain and body.
Over time, these changes can create long-term effects. Research shows that regular practice can increase emotional resiliency and ultimately protect against the effects of anxiety and depression.
You may be asking, “well, how do I practice gratitude?” There are many ways to elicit gratefulness in your life. First, you may tap into your values. What are you grateful for in your life that allows you to live in alignment with your values? For example, if you value education, you may think about your gratitude in exploring higher education at Florida Tech.
Being a student can be a significant challenge, especially when the work starts to pile up. However, considering taking a different perspective to highlight your appreciation of being a student, such as by saying, “I am grateful that I am fulfilling my value of education” or “I get to do this work to earn my degree” might improve your overall mood.
Here are some other ways to practice gratitude:
1. Journal. Write down three things that you are grateful for. The more often you do this, the more effective the practice will be on your mind and body. Try practicing this every day! If that is difficult to do, create a manageable goal to incorporate this practice into your routine, like committing to trying this once a week.
2. Jar. Try to write down at least one thing every day that you are grateful for and place it in a jar. Over time, you will have a physical representation of all that you are thankful for in your life. You can even get creative and decorate the jar to really make it your own!
3. Symbol. Find something that you have access to every day, whether it is a hair tie on your wrist or a note in your wallet and touch it as you think of what you are grateful for. This will help you remember what you are thankful for, and it will allow you to connect to the present moment.
4. Walk. As you go for a walk, really tune into your senses. Notice things that you might not normally tap into, such as how your feet feel when you step on the ground or the colors of the trees around you. Take time to notice what you appreciate about these experiences. You might notice something that you gloss over every day.
5. Letter. Write a detailed letter to yourself or someone else to express your gratitude. You may write it to yourself or your body to appreciate all that your mind and body do to keep you alive and living in alignment with what you care about. You might also write it to someone else who makes an impact in your life. You can decide whether to give it to that person or not. Connecting with ourselves and others can improve the effects of gratitude.
Use this holiday season to tap into all that you are grateful for. There is no limit to what you can be thankful for. For example, you might find appreciation for the people in your life and for your health, and you might even find gratitude for seemingly “smaller” things, like when you eat your favorite food for dinner or when someone smiles at you on your walk to class.
After this Thanksgiving season, try to continue practicing gratitude regularly. Let’s start right now. What are you grateful for?