Focus on Gratitude Practice | starherald.net • The Star-Herald • Kosciusko, Mississippi : Post Missi

Perhaps the most underrated holiday is Thanksgiving. Sandwiched between Christmas, almost everyone’s favorite holiday, and Halloween, perhaps the best holiday for dressing up and taking great coordinated photos, Thanksgiving can often feel like a footnote in the ever-expanding holiday season. Yet at its core, Thanksgiving invites us to focus for a moment on one of the most important emotions: gratitude.

There are many studies on the benefits of gratitude. Grateful people sleep better, have better self-esteem, experience less physical pain, and have better mental health. Gratitude seems to be a key antidote to anxiety, depression, and most negative emotions. People who practice gratitude are more satisfied with their life situation, which is an extremely important factor in mental well-being because we can’t control what life throws at us.

In my work as a career counselor, I often talk to my clients about gratitude. Each admits that this is an important thing they want to get better at, but it seems like a consistent struggle to practice gratitude.

So, as we go through this Thanksgiving week, what are some concrete ways to incorporate gratitude into our daily lives?

Well, first, start noticing the little things you’re grateful for. When we think about gratitude, we often start with great things. We are grateful for our spouse (hopefully!), children, home, health, and all those good things. But it doesn’t seem like remembering the great things we should be grateful for is the best way to improve our gratitude. We all get caught up in the daily rhythms of life and can almost get used to how grateful we are for these great things. And let’s be honest: sometimes we’re not really grateful for these things. Sometimes our spouse hurts us a lot, our children are annoying, or our home brings more stress into our lives because of the constant need to maintain it.

While practicing gratitude, it is good to appreciate the big things, but people who cultivate a life of gratitude find it in the little things. For example, in trying to practice this in my own life, I was deliberately grateful for the warmth of my new winter coat as well as the softness of the wool inside. After a long day of work, I was practicing gratitude last week when I saw a butterfly flying around the plants on the sidewalk as I was walking to my car from my office. And I practice gratitude by taking those first sips of the almost icy air when I first step outside in the morning, because it reminds me of the countless cold mornings I experienced growing up in northern Michigan.

Just as important as noticing these little moments is taking a small amount of time to just sit with them and appreciate the experience. We can be so caught up in the rush from one thing to another that we miss appreciating those little moments. Cultivating gratitude means we take a break from what we’re doing or thinking to just appreciate the brief moment we’ve had.

The more you practice gratitude, the more little things you can be grateful for. During today start noticing the little things you are grateful for and see how it changes the way you feel!

Mischa McCray is a licensed career counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist in Greenwood. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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