Being Thankful Can Improve Mental Health
By: Shannon Aeschliman, Community Liaison & Administrative Assistant
As the holiday’s approach and the weather starts to turn it may feel like the winter blues are starting to creep up on us. This particular time of year can bring up many feelings, both positive and negative. During the chaos of the holidays, one should remember the importance of their mental health. Try not to get bogged down with the stress of holiday planning, family events, spending money on gifts and food and parties. Instead, focus on the importance of this time of year and what it is supposed to represent. November is a time to reflect back on our year and be thankful for all that we have and all we have been through.
Being thankful is healthy. It takes one out of their own tunnel vision of life and makes them appreciate the hard work, effort, and existence of others. Being thankful means that you have stepped outside yourself and recognized those around you. Not only are you thankful but you are grateful for others. Gratitude and thankfulness go hand-in-hand. There are many ways to be thankful. Be thankful for what you DO HAVE in life instead of focusing on what you haven’t achieved yet. Look around and see the positivity in your life. There are many things to be thankful for just by reading this blog post- access to the internet, being literate, being awake and alive, the clothes on your back and the decision made to read this blog and become more informed. We can sometimes lose sight of the little, sometimes ‘insignificant’ things in our lives that we should be thankful for. In times of doubt, remember that these things are worthy of thanks. Being thankful for what you have can make you less envious and resentful of others. In fact, it makes one appreciate oneself and one’s own hard work. It also helps one to acknowledge the efforts made by others and enjoy them for who they are and what they provide.
During this time of year, it may feel like there is an emphasis on thankfulness. The holidays are the perfect time to practice being thankful. There are many things to be thankful for during the holidays. These may be things such as family coming together, marking another year, celebrating traditions, enjoying the food, getting into the spirit of that time of year, and being appreciative for what you have done or what others have done to make the day nice. Take a moment to be grateful for the effort and thought that went into the celebration. People have taken the time to come together for a special occasion and that should be celebrated and enjoyed.
The holidays can be hard because they can bring up memories and emotions that may be difficult for some. Issues surrounding the holidays may include the loss of a loved one, dealing with financial hardships, family conflict, etc.. It is important to be understanding to those who are going through their own issues. Be encouraging and offer support. This could be as simple as helping with cooking or clean up to mentioning them in a toast to show that they are in your thoughts. Focus on putting aside difference and difficulties. The holidays are about coming together and being thankful for what you have. Whether there are problems or not, it is important to put that out of your mind for the time-being and live in the moment of the holiday. Appreciate those around you, the food, the music, the environment, and the overall spirit of lightheartedness and happiness.
There are many ways to ease tension and set the correct tone for the holidays. If necessary, reach out beforehand and offer support or an apology. Even if it is just a nice text or a voicemail; it can help to smooth things over before the day even begins. Little gestures such as acknowledging and choosing to look past differences can offer hope for the day. Try to set a cheerful mood. Decorations, food and music are a great way to accomplish this. The dollar store is your best friend for holiday’s on a budget. If you are not hosting, do your best to adapt to the atmosphere. Appreciate what the host has done to make the day nice. Even if they use the same decorations you’ve seen for the last 20 years, try to remember all the good times you had as a family surrounded by those decorations. It is the little things that bring people together and continue traditions. Be grateful for those who make the effort to celebrate the day.
Thankfulness and gratitude improve mental health and relationships. They improve mental health by being content with what one has and not being driven by what one wants. It gives one a greater sense of fulfillment. They also lead to greater optimism, empathy, and energy. People who express thankfulness and gratitude are more positive, have a better understanding of those around them, and do not feel weighed down by negative feelings. Gratitude and thankfulness block toxic emotions such as envy, anger, sadness, selfishness and taking things for granted. Appreciation for what we have, what others provide, and for celebrating another day, year or holiday can go a long way to improve overall happiness.