by Kay Blankenship, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
The month of November represents the beginning of autumn and has been designated as National Gratitude Month. Nature celebrates this time of year in a burst of color that is soon followed by cool weather and falling leaves, as it prepares for dormancy and a well-earned season of rest. The quote, “Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go,” by an unknown author, is very fitting. We can embrace this time of year by letting go, and preparing for rest and reflection on what is good in our lives.
A simple way to think of gratitude is that it allows us to appreciate what we have in our lives and not the things we don’t. This doesn’t mean that we don’t acknowledge the difficult things that we are dealing with, but rather it is a conscious effort to find and focus on the good and be grateful.
Gratitude has been shown to have a positive impact on our physical and mental health. Research has found a reciprocal relationship between gratitude and depression. The more gratitude a person feels the less depressed they are and when a person is less depressed, it is easier to feel grateful. Gratitude also improves our relationships. It helps us feel more connected to others and helps us have more self-compassion and see ourselves in a less critical or negative way.
There are many ways to incorporate gratitude into our daily lives. Here are a few simple and easy ideas that you may want to try.
1. Make a gratitude list. It’s easy. Just grab an old notebook or piece of paper and everyday list three things, or people that you are grateful for. You can start with simple things such as a hot cup of coffee, your pet, or a sunny day.
2. Create Gratitude “Thank You Notes”. Think of people, friends, family, coworkers who you appreciate and are glad that they are in your life and write them a brief thank you note or email.
3. Make a Gratitude “Turkey”. This is a great way to involve younger children and the entire family. Draw and decorate a large turkey on sheet of paper, but don’t add any tail feathers. Next, cut out some colored paper in the shape of feathers. Then each day every family member writes what they are grateful for on a feather and then attach the feather to the turkey.
4. Practice a Two-Part Gratitude Meditation In this easy mindfulness meditation, you find a quiet place, get comfortable, and wrap your arms around yourself like a hug. Then think of someone who loves you. They can be deceased or living. Take some slow deep breaths and feel their love surround you. Try to call these things to mind and physically feel the experience… What color is their love? Does it surround you like a warm blanket? Stay here in this place for a while. When you are ready, then think of a person that you love and physically feel yourself sending them love. Afterwards, notice… Where did the love radiate from your body? What color was it? Was there a difference in receiving love and sending love? This grounding meditation not only calms the mind, but also the body by lowering blood pressure and stress hormones.
5. Mayo Clinic’s Virtual Gratitude Program. If you want a more organized and guided program. Consider joining Mayo Clinic Health System’s Discover Gratitude program. This virtual month-long program consists of daily journaling about thankfulness, mindfulness, and kindness on journal sheets. You will complete daily entries that are not collected. To help keep you motivated, they will check in on you via email a few times during the 30-day program and will share resources, and short inspiring videos.
Author: Kay Blankenship is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor based in central Illinois.