Holiday happiness – try gratitude therapy

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New Orleans: Thank you message in the grotto o...
New Orleans: Thank you message in the grotto of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church; added by those for whom prayer or miracles were granted (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gratitude – just the act of thinking about how grateful you are for the good things in your life – improves your attitude, your mood and, yes, even your health. HeartMath.org has scientific proof of how it works, and they even get hired by corporations to teach executives how to feel more gratitude – because it also improves your ability to be creative and to make sound decisions.

What? you say. Too good to be true! But in fact, it really makes a difference. And if this season tends to give you the holiday blues, here’s a little schedule – with thanks to Health.com magazine for the plan – by which you can teach yourself how to feel more gratitude and gain some of those benefits.
For the first week…
  • Notice the good. Every morning think of three things you’re grateful for. Doesn’t matter what they are or how small they are. Can be as simple as “I woke up this morning” or “I have enough milk for my coffee today” or “Knowing my friends.” But make sure you think of three different things each morning. It won’t work if you just mindlessly repeat the same things each day.
  • Put it in writing. Write or record the things you’re grateful for. Journaling works for some, but you could also text your three things to a friend or record a voice memo on your phone.
  • Use terms of positive feelings. When you think, write or record, use words like gifts, blessings, good fortune and abundance. Avoid left-handed expressions of gratitude like “thank heavens, this finally happened” or “it’s about time!” or “it’s the least they could do.”
For the second week…
  • Express thanks to others. Every day tell someone thank you for something very specific they do/did. “I really appreciate that you gave me your seat on the bus.” “Thank you for taking the garbage out in time for the truck.”
  • Put it in writing. Write a note to a friend, family member or mentor expressing your heartfelt appreciation for something s/he did that affected you in a positive way. If possible, read it out loud to the person or schedule a video chat to share it.
  • Volunteer to help someone else. People commonly feel more grateful for their own blessings when they do something for others. Carve out some time and sign up to help in your family, church, community or city in some way.
For the third week…
  • See the good everywhere you look. Notice the good things done by others in your family, school, neighborhood or civic group. When you think of your three blessings each day, also recognize others who perform heroic or even simply kind acts.
  • Find and record silver linings. Think of three less-than-ideal experiences you’ve had recently and discover ways in which they might have benefited you in some unexpected way. Sometimes, for example, getting laid off can lead to an even better opportunity. Ending a difficult relationship may lead to greater peace of mind.
  • Pay it forward at work. Workplaces can be the least gratitude-inspiring environments of all. Change up the vibe in your workplace by showing a peer, an intern or a boss some appreciation. And don’t be surprised if your gratitude comes back to you in return.

Rinse and repeat. Endlessly. And see what happens. Happy holidays!

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