I know that the world feels a little scary right now, particularly because of the economic downturn that the newspapers and TV reports are screaming about from every turn. And it’s also true that for many of us, the start of the holiday season can come with its own big box of stresses, even if it does come with a pretty red ribbon bow on it; being in close quarters with family members that we spend very little time with the rest of the year, cringe worthy office parties, too much alcohol flowing, and of course the food. Food, food everywhere, with exhortations to “eat, eat” from every aunt and grandmother that worries we’ve supposedly gotten too skinny. But it can also be a chance to release our selves from the overwhelming ‘reality’ of our lives for just a few days, and embrace a childlike hope and appreciation for the magical things in life
Now I could just give you diet strategies for dealing with the Turkey, mounds of cream-laden mashed potatoes, pies, desserts and giant tubs of chocolate candy temptations. But honestly: if you want that information then there’s a hundred other blogs, magazine articles (Shape, Self, Glamour, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Fitness etc) that are brimming over with smart ideas that you can use over the holiday season IF you want to.
Over here in the USA the festive season kicks off tomorrow with Thanksgiving Day; a holiday that whatever its history, has to me at least, come to represent the best elements of what a festive celebration should be. It’s not about extravagant gift giving or receiving, but just about spending time with family and close friends, and expressing gratitude for the good things we have in our lives.
We’re all on our own journeys, and we all have ideas, some similar, others dramatically different, on what we think will make us happy. I’m a huge proponent of the school of thought known as Positive Psychology, which is basically the scientific research and study behind exactly what it is that makes us happy. Amazingly it has relatively little to do with how much money you make, or how intelligent or beautiful you are to others. Far far higher on the scale are things like supportive loving relationships (be they family, friends or romantic), good coping strategies for the bad stuff that is sometimes a part of every life, the ability and focus to commit to pursuing goals in our lives, and yes GRATITUDE.
Here are three scientifically proven ways that gratitude can improve our sense of wellbeing, the how’s and why’s of which are discussed in ‘THANKS!’ (The image I’ve used today is a book on this exact subject by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. It can be ordered on Amazon if you’re interested in reading further).
* People who regularly practice grateful thinking can increase their “set-point” for happiness (basically the level at which they are at most often) by as much as 25%.
*These increases can be sustained over a period of months: which challenges the perception that our “set-point” for happiness is predetermined and frozen at birth.
*Keeping a gratitude journal for as little as three weeks can result in better sleep and more energy.
Now you may be reading this and rolling your eyes, because you’ve got some really serious problems going on in your life right now. I respect that and I’m not trying to say that this is a magic wand that will wipe away all your problems. But this is also not just some happy-clappy, granola hearsay; this is work that has been done by internationally respected scientists. So perhaps it’s worth a try. All a gratitude journal has to be is writing three little things that you can think of each day that you’re grateful for. Yes they can be big things; I am incredibly grateful to have Lacey in my life for example and that her family have welcomed me into their home this and past Thanksgivings. I’m English and we don’t have it in my country But I’m also grateful that there wasn’t a long line in Starbucks this morning, because that winds me up and throws off my schedule!!
I find it a calming thing to do, and it really helps me focus on the fact that while these are stressful times, there are a lot of good things, little and large, that happen everyday that I might just not notice if I wasn’t looking out for them.
Wherever you are in the world, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I wish you a happy and peaceful day tomorrow, and I am grateful that you took the time to read this posting !!