Thanksgiving may be over, but it’s not too late to take advantage of the spirit of gratitude the holiday can inspire.
Being grateful isn’t just timely, it’s been proven to have mental and physical benefits. If you’re interested in learning more, there’s a great piece from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth about The Importance of Gratitude.
This month, I focused my Editor Letter for Rebellious Magazine for Women on being thankful, and while I hope everyone can find something in their lives to be grateful for, I didn’t offer any examples for how to make it happen.
So I’m doing that here with some quick ideas for gratitude exercises you can do or plan as you’re polishing off those turkey or Tofurky leftovers.
Write a Thank You Letter to Yourself
And when I say write, I mean write. Like, by hand. Because I’m old school enough to believe in the power of putting pen to paper.
Grab some paper, stationary or a thank-you card, a fancy pen or pencil and 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted time to compose your letter. If you feel overwhelmed, set a timer for 25 minutes and write as much as you can in that time.
If it helps, imagine that someone who loves you is writing the letter to you, expressing gratitude for everything you’ve accomplished this year, all of the challenges you’ve overcome, the kind gestures and moments of generosity that you may have taken for granted.
For an added emotional oomph, give the sealed letter to a friend and ask them to mail it to you in a few days, weeks or months.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
I have friends who start and end every day or week by writing down three to five things they’re grateful for, and there are tons of planners, calendars and journals that offer a structured way to do so.
And, of course, there’s an app for that.
The list of things that you’re grateful for can be short, with a sentence or even a few words for each, and it’s the quality of the emotion rather than the quantity of words that matters.
Make Like a Painter and Reframe
This last one is the one that I’ve found to be the most difficult to practice – and the most helpful.
The art of the reframe works like this: During a super stressful moment or predicament, I take a deep breath, sometimes even take a physical step back, and think of something that I’m grateful for about the situation.
Situation: I’m explaining – AGAIN – why our coworking workspace for women is about empowering ourselves and not insulting men.
Reframe: We’re fortunate to have this space and the opportunity to have conversations about it. We may not be changing everyone’s minds, but we’re getting people thinking, and that’s half the battle.
It can feel forced at first, but I’ve found that it helps to unclench my shoulders, slow my racing heart and focus my thoughts.
What Are You Grateful For?
No matter what gratitude practice or exercise you choose, I hope it provides you with some of those health benefits.