two male seniors

Science has shown that gratitude can boost both mental and physical health. People who are grateful feel less stress, less pain, have fewer bouts with insomnia, and have stronger immune systems. Learning to live with a more positive outlook helps people have healthier relationships and do better both academically and professionally.

We have all been through a stressful and challenging year and a half. Some have suffered more than others, losing jobs, businesses and even health or loved ones to this virus. At minimum, each of our lives, plans and social relationships were interrupted. Weddings, graduations and social gatherings postponed, sports seasons rescheduled or played in empty stadiums, and holidays spent alone.  So how can we reframe that experience?  How can we live with gratitude at Thanksgiving and through the holiday seasons?

Gratitude is spontaneously generated from within and is an affirmation of goodness and warmth in our world.  Even with loss, we can be grateful and appreciative for all we still have.  Gratitude comes easily to some, but the good news is, that it also can be cultivated. The following are sixteen suggestions to help each of us experience more gratitude:

  • Try to focus on what can be controlled vs the “uncontrollable.”
  • Live life with purpose. Find a way to feel value added or of service.
  • Focus on an uplifting moment from a recent event or a lesson you learned from a book, or a photo of a place that brings you joy.
  • Put life in perspective, like the fact that pandemics have been a part of our collective history and we, as human beings, are incredibly resilient.
  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Spend time with family and friends even if the contact is through internet.
  • Engage in volunteer work, helping others can help us feel good about ourselves.
  • Keep a journal of or in some way note big and little joys of daily life.
  • Every day identify three positive things to be grateful for.
  • Write thank-you notes or cards to others to brighten their day.
  • Think about people who have inspired you and what about them was most significant.
  • Imagine what your life would be like if some positive event had not occurred.
  • List future goals to look toward.
  • Complete projects you never had time to address.
  • Spend quality time with pets. They can reduce blood pressure and decrease loneliness.
  • Commune with nature and enjoy the outdoors.

The last one comes easily to those of us fortunate enough to call Mill Valley home and/or live or work at the foot of Mount Tamalpais and the edge of Richardson Bay. We hope some of the others on the list will resonate with you, or a friend that needs to hear them.  Caring and sharing is a way to cultivate gratitude.  Here’s wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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