Make Giving Thanks a Regular Practice

Posted November 19, 2012 by Monica O'Connell in Life After Five

To begin the Thanksgiving week, I thought we’d focus on giving thanks — otherwise known as gratitude. Thanksgiving kicks off the next month of hustle and bustle and holiday spirit, but with it comes an opportunity to get lost in consumerism, overindulgence, and pressure to expend ourselves beyond our means. We have a chance to get ahead of this chaos by really paying attention to what we have in our lives that is awesome, and by being thankful for everything surrounding us.

Brain researchers and psychologists have spent quite a bit of time studying ancient practices of gratitude and acceptance to fully understand and give evidence to the benefits. Dr. Daniel Amen uses brain scans to show people how simply changing their thoughts can change their brains. He’s studied people in fear states and gratitude states, and he found that people who spend time in gratitude states literally change their brains for the better. People who make a regular practice of gratitude showed improvements in their memory.

Additional benefits of giving thanks are somewhat overwhelming . . . Are you ready for this? Gratitude makes us happier, improves our health, improves our productivity, increases our energy, helps us feel more relaxed more often, makes us more resilient, and helps us connect better in relationships.

I’d love more of all that goodness in my life. Wouldn’t you? And how can you get it? Start a gratitude practice. Here are some of my favorite ways people have incorporated gratitude into their lives.

  1. Meditation. Beginning each practice of meditation with a gratitude or setting an intention of gratitude.
  2. A gratitude journal. Each day writing down a list of the best things that happened that day.  (I’ve been doing this for years and it’s become one of my favorite habits. It’s also really cool to look back and see what I was grateful for over the past Thanksigivings, for example)
  3. Include your family. Keep a notebook in the kitchen or family room and take turns trading off writing down the things you’re grateful for about one another.
  4. At family meals, start the conversation with gratitude: Say all of the things that rocked your world that day.
  5. As you wake up in the morning, name five things that make you happy.  You’ll start the day off on the right side of the bed.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to practice giving thanks. I’d love to hear what you’re most grateful for — your gratitude helps to increase my gratitude practice!

About the Author

Monica O'Connell

Monica O’Connell is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In her practice, she spends her career cheering on “Career Girls” as they learn how to get the most out of life. Monica works with arguably some of the most successful, intelligent, inspiring women in the Twin Cities who tackle self-discovery, career success, and what’s getting in the way of their true desires. She shares her favorite moments as those “best described not by words but by the stomach aching, face soreness that comes from spending an entire day laughing with loved ones.”