Counting your blessings through gratitude to reduce stress this holiday season

While many may feel their hearts warming this holiday season, some people may be struggling to find their joy in all the festivities. In fact, many individuals actually overestimate how pleasant the holiday time may be. Holidays can be a stressful time, fraught with difficult conversations, pressure and expectations, and increased responsibilities. Research has found that thanksgiving is associated with a lower overall life satisfaction and lower mood, however, this can be buffered by practicing gratitude.

Gratitude is the practice of giving thanks and appreciation. Gratitude has been found to be associated with greater life satisfaction and happiness, reduced depression and reduced anxiety. Expressing gratitude to others has even been found to boost an individual’s daily mood and improve relationships.

There are many ways to incorporate gratitude in your life to bring about benefits for you as well as for those you express it to. Expressing gratitude to your friends, lovers, or family has been shown to improve relationship satisfaction, and has the benefits of increased well-being.

In a recent research study, individuals were told to write letters of gratitude to important people in their lives. They were also told that they did not have to send the letters to the person they were expressing thanks for. In individuals who both sent and did not send the letter, the benefits of gratitude were seen. Researchers believe that expressing gratitude helps shift the brain’s focus from the negative to positive experiences. However, you don’t have to practice gratitude only within relationship contexts.

Creating lists of what one is grateful for can also increase life satisfaction and well-being. Try listing five things daily that you are grateful for two-weeks or more to experience some of these mental boosting effects.

You can also create a gratitude jar this season. Any jar will work, decorate it however you like, and each day write on a slip of paper what you are grateful for to stick it in the jar. When you have a tough or a low day, open up the jar and go over each slip.

If you are struggling to start your gratitude practice, try using these journal prompts to get those thankful juices flowing. “I am grateful for my family because…”. “Something good that happened this week is…”, “I am grateful for who i am because…”, “Something silly that I am grateful for is…”.

Cultivating a warm attitude of compassion and gratitude is an easy way to help support your mental health this holiday season. If you are experiencing mental distress during these stressful times and need additional support, come by the Student Counseling Services at CC 116 or call 806-651-2340. Ten counseling sessions with licensed professionals are already included in your tuition, take advantage of them before the semester is over.

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