The holidays--that span of the calendar between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day--are such a chaotic time, filled with the emotional and financial stress that comes along with spending an extended period of time with family and holiday shopping. It can be easy to become consumed with anxiety and stress, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
In fact, many people seem to forget that this time of year actually revolves around what to be thankful for because they are so focused on smaller details that distract from instead focusing on gratitude. With a few simple tips, however, practicing gratitude over the holidays--and every day--might not be so taxing and could simply become a new way of looking at life.
Start A Daily Gratitude Journal
A daily gratitude journal might sound like a homework assignment, but repeat behavior won’t become a new habit until you’ve done it for about 66 consecutive days. That adds up to a little over two months of a new thing before it feels like a mindless habit. While that may seem like a big task, it’s a pretty short amount of time when you take the entirety of a lifetime into consideration.
Practicing gratitude is just that: a practice. It takes time and effort to change the way you see the world. Dr. Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Davis and a leading scientific expert on gratitude, recommends that you set “aside time on a daily basis to recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable life theme of gratefulness.”
Check Out Volunteer Opportunities For Seniors
There are known research-backed benefits for pursuing volunteer opportunities for seniors, including lower rates of depression, better overall health and a better sense of psychological well being. If you are looking for ways to combat the holiday blues and instead feel more gratitude, volunteer work is a great place to begin. When it comes to gratitude, Dr. Emmons has found that “if you want to make the most out of opportunities to flex your gratitude muscles, you must creatively look for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful.” Volunteer work provides an excellent chance to pursue exactly that.
The good news is that there are more volunteer opportunities for seniors than ever before, with many seniors even looking at volunteering as a second career during retirement. There are many great organizations out there that can use volunteers, especially around the holidays. You can begin by reaching out to local resources in your community, including the local senior center or place of worship, to find out where your services might be most needed and appreciated.
While Dr. Emmons discusses the particular benefits of a meditation technique called Naikan, meditation in general can help remind you what to be thankful for on a daily basis. According to Dr. Emmons, Naikian meditation has a specific focus on three questions:
- “What have I received from __?”
- “What have I given to __?”,
- “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”
They aim to help you reflect on who you are and the conscious or unconscious decisions you have made or continue to make in your life. This type of meditation, however, is not exclusive to discovering more gratitude in your life. Meditation in general encourages you to quiet the mind and reflect on your life by taking 20-30 minutes a day to sit in silence. Like keeping a daily gratitude journal, meditation is also a practice that requires commitment and dedication.
Gain Some Perspective
Everyone faces their own set of challenges throughout their lifetime, but it’s important not to get distracted by the negative aspects and try to focus on the positive. If you suffer from chronic health conditions, perhaps you will discover that you are grateful to still have your cognitive function. Or, if you are struggling financially, perhaps you are grateful to a family member who selflessly stepped up to care for you free of charge. The grass can, indeed, always seem greener, but the reality is that it’s all a matter of perspective.
When it comes down to what to be thankful for this holiday season, that is up to you. If you are grateful for something specific this holiday season, please share it with us on social media! You can leave a comment on our Facebook page or send us a tweet.