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Bringing the THANKS into Thanksgiving

Posted: November 23, 2021



By: CCNW Oncology Counseling Manager, Paula McKee, LICSW

Along with special times with family and friends, the holiday season often brings a list of increased expectations and demands. With some planning and positive thinking, you can develop ways to calm your stress and allow you to enjoy the holidays even more. Growing a 'practice of gratitude' may be just what you need to find peace and joy during the holidays.

Growing a mindset that attends to gratitude can have many benefits.  Some physical benefits of a gratitude mindset can include:

  • A stronger immune system and being less bothered by physical aches and pains.
  • A decrease in blood pressure.
  • Improve our sleep. Sleeping longer and feeling more rested upon awakening may naturally improve our mood and calm. This practice requires a desire to feel better!

There are many social benefits of a gratitude mindset too, including:

  • Feeling more compassionate, more generous, and more helpful towards others.
  • A desire for forgiveness and meaningful connection with others.  
  • Opening to people will minimize loneliness and isolation often felt during the holiday season.

As the word 'growing' suggests, developing a gratitude practice is a process.  As your daily practice grows the benefits will be cumulative. As your feelings change through this process you should begin to see this change as authentic.

Like any new behavior or mindset, you would like to adopt, gratitude practice is a choice and a daily practice – commitment, patience, and discipline are important! If you don't immediately "feel more grateful” or "better," consistently going through the motions of a gratitude practice will bring a change to your brain by creating new neural networks. These new neural networks will bring new feelings of happiness and gratitude. As your brain changes, psychological benefits of a gratitude practice can be higher levels of positive emotion, feeling more joy, pleasure, and optimism.

There are many ways to practice gratitude. Try to find a method that resonates with you. Below are options that work for many people, but search for 'gratitude practices' that may be helpful for you.

  • Start a Gratitude journal
  • Gratitude share before meals
  • A text or email 'gratitude buddy' who you message daily
  • Gratitude Letter: Write a letter to someone you are grateful for. Pick someone who has touched your life in a positive way. When you're finished writing the letter you can send it or call and read this letter. You can even NOT send the letter with love and gratitude.
  • Receive Gratefully: Many of us are better givers than receivers.  When you receive a gift or compliment, focus on the experience of receiving. Noticing your experience as a recipient will allow you to receive with true joy and grace.

Growing a mindset of gratitude can bring THANKS into your Thanksgiving holiday!




Adapted from How to Develop a Gratitude Mindset by Tamara Lechner