For a lot of people, the word “Thanksgiving” brings to mind long car rides, fighting with siblings, and making small talk with annoying cousins. I often find myself the opposite of thankful on Thanksgiving, since pretty much the only thing I enjoy is the delicious food and time off from school. But some new scientific research says that there are big time benefits to being grateful, and not just once a year.
Why Gratitude Is Good
A new kind of psychology called “positive psychology” is all about finding out what makes people happy. What positive psychologists have found is that gratitude (being grateful) might be the key to being happy. Gratitude can shift how you look at the world and help you see the good things. It’s true that some people are just naturally happier than others, but a lot of happiness is about figuring out how to focus on what’s good in our lives. There are always going to be problems with the world and with each of our lives, which is why it’s important to learn how to appreciate the good things around us. That doesn’t mean you have to ignore the problems that exist, but a generally more positive point of view can give you the energy and hope to deal with dilemmas when they come up.
How To Do It
It can be hard to be grateful when life is all about doing homework, dealing with frenemies, and fighting with the ‘rents. Sometimes the stuff we’re most grateful for is easy to forget about when there’s so much drama bringing you down. So start by making a list of the big things you’re most grateful for, like a family or friends who love you, food to eat every day, a bed to sleep in, a talent you have, or a healthy body. There don’t have to be that many things on the list, just the things that you are most lucky to have every day. Put the list somewhere safe, where you can look at it whenever you need a reminder.
Next, start to keep a journal of little things that make you happy every other day (pick out a cute notebook that you like to look at!). Every couple of days, write down the 3 things that you’re most grateful for in the past 2 days – stuff like a good grade on a test, getting to sleep in late on a cold morning, and catching your crush’s eye in class. Throughout the day, you’ll find yourself looking for things that might make it to the gratitude top 3, and in doing so you’re training yourself to see things positively. In about 6 weeks, you should find yourself thinking about everything a little differently, noticing and enjoying the positive parts of life. But don’t expect miracles –it can help a lot, but it’s not magic. For serious depression, you should see a professional, who may recommend this as part of the treatment. And if you’re already a pretty content person, odds are you do a bit of this naturally, so the results may be subtle, but still noticeable.
Take It a Step Further
Spread the love! When you tell people that you are grateful for something about them or something they did, it makes them happier….which makes you feel good too! So try writing a letter to someone you love telling them why, and make sure to thank the next person who holds a door for you or helps you with your homework. Give it a try and watch what happens!
BLOG ABOUT IT: What are you most grateful for? Are you going to try these gratitude exercises? Do you have any other tricks for being grateful and happy? What is the best thing that’s happened to you this week? Let us know!
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BY LISA BOSCOV-ELLEN ON 11/27/2013 12:00:00 AM
POSTED IN christmas, thanksgiving, hanukkah, happy holidays, self-esteem