In the US, Thanksgiving marks the official start to the holiday season. The day itself is meant as a time to express gratitude. As you sit with friends and family, enjoying a delicious meal, it’s easier to take a moment to pause and give thanks. It might seem like an indulgent celebration, focusing on food, football, and shopping, but spending time with the people you love has a positive impact on your brain. Whether you travel to visit family, spend a fun night out with friends, or set out to make your own traditions, remember to take a moment and practice gratitude—it’s good for your brain.
Reduce symptoms of depression
The benefits of gratitude have long shown the same results: practicing gratitude in your daily life reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Your brain is primarily a filtration device, and you direct where your attention and focus goes. When you focus on everything you don’t have, that’s what you notice all around you. But when you redirect your thoughts to focus on the positive aspects of your life through appreciation and gratitude, your brain will shift to notice more of those elements in your daily life.
Go into the holiday’s with a list of everything you’re grateful for and update it as you move through the season. Find something to be thankful for every day and notice how taking a moment to acknowledge that gratitude changes your mood and outlook. Wish people a happy holiday, hold doors open, smile at strangers, and take a moment to pay kindness forward by helping others in whatever small way you can.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. Work demands take precedent, school projects and after-school activities eat up the evening hours, and weekends are spent catching up on everything you didn’t quite have time for during the week. The holiday’s are often the one time of year when visiting friends and family is finally a priority. While this can sometimes lead to increased stress, studies show being around people you love can actually improve how your brain functions.
When you express gratitude for the people in your life, you strengthen both the social and familial bonds. It redirects the focus away from negative irritations or past hurts, and helps you appreciate the positive aspects of how they impact your life. This helps reduce stress, can lower symptoms of depression, and leads to feeling more supported in your daily life.
Multiple studies show the link between subjective well-being and gratitude. One of the primary reasons for this is when you focus your attention on positive emotions and events, you promote and encourage more positive emotions. Instead of feeling like things go wrong, you start to believe that things can go right. It builds your emotional resilience, which allows you to bounce back from unexpected obstacles and difficulties faster and with more confidence.
This becomes even more important during times of stress. And while the holiday’s can bring a lot of reasons for positive emotions, it can sometimes highlight negative ones, too. It’s important to continue building your positive frame of mind. Set healthy boundaries, make sure you have a plan to help mitigate stress, and don’t forget to do things that recharge your emotional spirit. When you embrace gratitude, you not only feel better about yourself, you increase your self-esteem, find your purpose, continue your personal growth, and gain clearer perspective about what’s most important to you and how you can hold onto it.
One of the most commonly touted benefits of gratitude is that it lowers stress. But it does more than that. When you practice gratitude, studies show you not only lower stress levels, but you actually decrease your overall stress response. That means you’re less likely to succumb to increased stress when faced with difficult or unforeseen problems in the future.
While being grateful during the holiday’s may come easier than other times of the year, taking the time to celebrate the wins and appreciate the small moments throughout the year is just as important. You can practice during the holiday season by focusing on the tiny moments or actions instead of the bigger, more obvious ones. By shifting your focus away from the main events, you train yourself to recognize the quiet space in between, and that’s much easier to carry throughout the year.
Get quality sleep
It should come as no surprise that practicing gratitude improves your sleep. With lower cortisol levels, your brain can produce more melatonin, promoting your body to adapt to your natural circadian rhythm. A study out of the University of Manchester found that this improved quality of sleep happened regardless of personality types or individual differences.
Quality sleep leads to better cognitive functionality, improved mood, and better health—many of the same benefits a daily gratitude practice provides. When you exercise gratitude daily, your physical and mental health both improve. This means you can be more present, show up more fully for the people in your life, and enjoy your time with them in a deeper, more meaningful way.
The holiday season is a mixture of both being thankful and celebrating. And both have a positive impact on your brain. As you move through this holiday season, take a moment to find reasons to be thankful. You’ll laugh more, sleep better, and feel happier. Remember, what you appreciate, appreciates. So, find reasons to embrace gratitude in your holiday celebrations in both big and small ways. Your brain—and your loved ones—will thank you.
If you want more Kwik Tips on how to make gratitude part of your daily routine, check out this video: