As we move into November and the holiday season, we begin to think about Thanksgiving and the practice of giving thanks. Of course, giving thanks doesn’t have to be a one holiday practice. Giving thanks can be a daily practice that can reap a wide variety of social, psychological, and physical health benefits. Since you’ll probably be faced with a lot of food this holiday season, being grateful can even contribute to your mindful eating practice.
Gratitude can be seen as a part of a person’s life orientation (dispositional gratitude) in which someone is more likely to notice and appreciate the positive in life on a regular basis. But, gratitude can arise from feeling grateful in the moment for something that has happened which we appreciate (e.g., someone letting us into a line of traffic, a friend dropping off food when you’re sick, a co-worker helping you with a project). Appreciation can also arise for the simple (yet profound) event of waking up in the morning alive! Have you thanked your body for waking up today?
Research looking at the practice of gratitude has reported that it reduces depression, anxiety, substance abuse, difficulty sleeping, and the risk of bulimia nervosa, while it increases body image and improves health symptoms, subjective stress, and an overall sense of well-being (Wood, Froh, & Geraghty, 2010). And, apparently the effects of gratitude can be more effective as we age (Hill, Allemand, Roberts, 2013).
Here are some basic tips to get your disposition more grateful:
- Appreciate Your Body – In my classes, I teach people to start looking at their bodies from the perspective of its instrumental value. You can appreciate your heart for beating, your lungs for breathing, your eyes for seeing, your ears for hearing, etc. The body is an incredible container that we inhabit and it can be inspiring to consider it deeply in this way.
- Give Thanks at Mealtime – This is a practice that I was taught as a child, but sometimes forget as an adult. It is a beautiful practice to pause before you eat and either silently or verbally give thanks for the food and the people who brought it to you. If you don’t do this now, try it for the whole month of November and notice how you feel.
- Gratitude List – This is the most common gratitude practice that has been researched and found effective. Quite simply, write down a list of five things that you are grateful for every day. Done at night, it can be a positive way of reflecting on your day.
- Gratitude for the Difficult – It’s easy to be grateful for the things that are working in your life, but it can be a little more challenging to be grateful for the difficult. The holiday season might bring lots of opportunities to practice this one. Every time something difficult arises, say a simple “thank you” to yourself. Know that everything holds within it something to be learned.
- Do a Gratitude Meditation – To help you get started on your gratitude practice, try my short gratitude meditation. It only takes about six minutes but it can reset your mind to a kinder view of the world.
If you want to know more about the benefits of being grateful and how to practice it, join me during the webinar entitled Enhance Your Mindful Eating Practice with Gratitude on Wednesday, November 15, at 11:00 p.m. Central Time through The Center for Mindful Eating. Learn how gratitude can play a part in making the holidays (and any time of year) really joyous.