November is National Gratitude Month.
I feel like gratitude is one of those buzzwords that people like to throw around when they’re trying to be endlessly positive and you just want to tell them to shut up. But I get how important it is to be thankful for/appreciate all the good stuff in life, especially when it’s so easy to get bogged down in the everyday minutiae. Plans go wrong, mistakes happen, messes are made, and sometimes life just seems unfair, but it’s always a good idea to pause each day and think of even one little thing that has gone right or is just plain good. In fact, experts have found that practicing gratitude not only make you happier, but it can make you healthier, too.
Expressing our gratitude enhances our moods, decreases our stress, and thus improves our overall health and wellbeing. Grateful people tend to have fewer stress-related illnesses, experience less depression, are more physically fit, and have more satisfying relationships. Those are all compelling reasons to focus on the good instead of getting lost in the bad.
Cultivating gratitude is easy; it starts with noticing the goodness in life. I think we can all agree that this year has been a doozey, and I personally haven’t been very good about appreciating the good things I have. And because the benefits of gratitude are accrued over time, I’m going to make it a month-long (and hopefully beyond) endeavor to try to be more positive and practice gratitude. Each week during the month of November I’ll describe all the things I’ve been grateful for.
And, look, I know it sounds easier than it really is. A while back I had a coworker who came to the office one morning with a rubber band around her wrist. When I asked about it, she said she was trying an experiment; she was using the rubber band as a tool to literally snap her out of her negative thoughts. Each time she had a negative thought, she would snap the rubber band. When I told my therapist about it later that week, she helped me reframe this way of thinking. You see, by snapping for the bad thoughts, we become focused on the negative. It’s more likely to make us ruminate on the bad. Instead, my therapist suggested that I do the opposite and add a rubber band or bracelet to my wrist each time I had a good thought and to try to accumulate at least 3-5 bracelets per day. It was pretty brilliant but needless to say, I didn’t stick with it long. It’s hard to see the good sometimes, I get it. But we shouldn’t let that stop us from trying!
I hope you’ll consider joining me in cultivating gratitude this month and beyond. I’d love to hear about some of the things you’re grateful for, but the best part about gratitude is that it works whether you share it with others or keep it to yourself. If you want to share, please do so in the comments. I can’t wait to learn about all of the good stuff that is happening out there. If you’d rather do it on your own, I feel you and support you. But whatever you do, try to find something each day that you can give thanks for.