Holidays can be a mixed bag. While it’s nice to have a day off once in a while, most holidays come with extra work, family conflict or exhausting travel. But, there’s one holiday that’s better for your mental health than others. Thanksgiving is rooted in two practices proven to boost your mood and wellbeing-- “thanks” and “giving.”
Focusing on the good things in your life boosts your sense of wellbeing. Good things can come in big packages, like a promotion at work or a new baby. Or they can be small, like a phone call from a friend when you’re having a tough day, or a good meal. Counting your blessings is a proven way to become more optimistic and resilient. The simple act of writing down three things for which you are thankful each day can make a real difference in your mental health. Expressing gratitude to co-workers or family members can improve your relationships. Even when bad things happen, people who find the silver lining and show gratitude to their helpers recover more quickly. Researchers say people who practice daily gratitude sleep better, have lower blood pressure, and report less pain and inflammation. They also report significantly lower risk of major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, phobia, nicotine dependence, alcohol dependence and drug abuse.
Here are three tips to help you start your own gratitude practice:
Keep a notepad and pen by your bed to jot down three things you are grateful for each night before going to sleep;
Keep a box of thank you cards handy to remind you to express gratitude to your co-workers and neighbors;
Set a timer on your phone to ask your loved ones what they are thankful for each day and celebrate their responses.
The Act of Giving
People who have empathy and make a habit of giving to those in need are generally happier people. Ask anyone who has given to a “Go Fund Me” account or a local campaign after a tragedy…helping others just feels good. Scientists have a name for this, it’s called “the helper’s high”. Giving and helping both activate chemicals in the brain related to pleasure, trust, and positive relationships. Giving doesn’t have to cost you money. Volunteering is a first-hand way to experience helping others, and it’s a good way to model empathy and giving to children. Gather up unwanted items around your house and donate them to a charity thrift store. Take your leftovers to an elderly neighbor instead of stashing them in a forgotten corner of the fridge. Pick up trash at a park or playground, or put a little more effort into beautifying your yard to benefit the greater good. Giving has a way of taking our minds off our own problems and boosts our sense of purpose.
All of us at Southeast Health Group hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving, and that you get a chance to take a little time to focus on the “thanks” and “giving” this holiday season.