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It’s that time of year again – cooler weather, family get-togethers, festive holiday cheer. As we ready ourselves for the start of holiday festivities, it’s good form – and good for you – to have an attitude of gratitude.
A University of California, Davis, and University of Miami study found an association between gratitude and a person’s well-being. During a journaling exercise with two groups, those who wrote about the positive occurrences were 25 percent happier than those who wrote about negative occurrences. People with gratitude were also found to experience fewer aches and pains, sleep better at night, and exercise more often.
Cultivating gratefulness takes practice, but it’s easy to do. By using what Charles M. Shelton, Ph.D., calls a Daily Gratitude Inventory (DGI), you can develop a lifelong habit of practicing gratitude. A DGI is a written, daily examination of the blessings in our lives. Whether you journal about your blessings or keep a list, putting them to paper keeps them fresh in your mind. Doing this practice before bedtime sets the mood for a good night’s sleep.
Here are other ways to cultivate a spirit of gratitude.
Experience the Good
Be present and use your senses to savor the world around you. Breathe in the smell of a roaring fire, pinecones, and hot apple pie. Enjoy the sight of flickering lights strung on lampposts downtown. Listen to the sweet sound of the children’s choir performing at a packed mall. Notice the feel of soft ear muffs and fur-lined gloves against your skin. Savor the taste of freshly-baked butter cookies.
Feelings of love and gratitude are contagious. Spend time with people who make you smile and feel good. Put your best, positive foot forward to make others feel welcome.
Colorado is nature’s wonderland. Fill your spiritual well with a brisk, cool walk or a leisurely morning hike. Breathe in the fresh air, observe your surroundings and focus on something you are grateful for.
Say No and Then Say Yes
During the holidays, it’s easy to over-schedule and burn out from busyness. You don’t have to cross off every item on your checklist and please every friend and family member. It’s okay to say no to the activities that lead to exhaustion and stress. Say yes to what you love and enjoy. Fill your days with activities and people who make you happy.
Feeling fortunate – or not? Now is a good time to use your time, talent, and heart to make life better for another. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or shelter not just on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, but throughout the holiday season and after. Brighten the holidays for a local child by dropping off a toy at a toy drive, such as Covenant Village of Colorado’s Toys for Tots benefit luncheon on Dec. 5. Call 877-341-0295 or visit www.covenantcolorado.org for more information.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of holiday planning, shopping and completing our to-do lists. It doesn’t have to be that way. Pause and focus on your blessings. By practicing gratefulness, you’ll experience holidays filled with joy, peace and happiness.
Kent Mulkey is executive director at Covenant Village of Colorado, a faith-based, nonprofit, continuing care retirement community located in Westminster. He is one of a team of professionals who writes about senior living, retirement, and health and wellness. For more information, visit http://www.covenantcolorado.org or call 877-341-0295.
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