Research shows grateful people are happy people. But, it can be easy to take good things for granted and instead spend our mental energy on the problems we're facing. As the holiday season kicks off with Thanksgiving this week, let’s actively focus our attention on cultivating an attitude of gratitude.


Why is gratitude good for you?

Gratitude inspires self-improvement. Research from UC Riverside shows gratitude is not just a pleasant, passive emotion but rather an activating, energizing force that may help us become better, more socially engaged people.


Gratitude also inspires kindness towards others. Researchers studied the effects of helping others when it costs you. They found those who received help from someone else, and felt grateful for that help, later put more effort into helping other people. Think “Pay it Forward.”


Research from The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley suggests that writing gratitude letters may be helpful for people seeking counseling services but also explains what’s behind gratitude’s psychological benefits.  It indicates that simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain. While not conclusive, this finding suggests that practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time.


Practicing gratitude and appreciating the blessings in life might have the power to do more than just make us happy. Gratitude can inspire us to do more good, show more kindness, motivate action to improve our lives, and become more productive members of society.


So, let’s start start practicing an attitude of gratitude right now.  Here are 5 ways do so this holiday season:


1. Stay hydrated

Nothing gets you down in the dumps faster than a headache thanks to dehydration. Keep your water bottle nearby all winter long to keep your energy levels up, and your outlook positive. Plus, it’ll help you stay full so you avoid binging on all the holiday goodies.


2. Keep it moving

Being grateful is about appreciating everything life has to offer and that includes appreciating the way your body can move! From a walk, to a group fitness class or some contemplative laps in the pool, our bodies can do incredible things. Appreciate what it can do, rather than focusing on what it can’t do or how you want to change it. You’re perfect just the way you are! So, keep it moving to keep the positive endorphins flowing.


3. Get your greens

What you eat has a big influence on how you feel, so fuel up with the good stuff this holiday season to keep your body and mind functioning at its best. We are lucky to live in California where we have access to fresh food and delicious produce. As you sit down to eat, practice focusing on each bite you take and appreciating the food that is nourishing your body.


4. Be intentional with your purpose for the day

Set yourself up for success the moment you wake up. Find a saying, inspiring mantra, or just set your own intention as you get out of bed. Come back to your intention throughout the day – at your lunch break, on your drive home and then again as you brush your teeth. Reflect on that intention and how you manifested it throughout your day.


5. Write down three things you’re grateful for each night as you go to sleep

Take a look at your day and write down three specific things that happened that day in a gratitude journal. It can be anything from the stranger that held the door for you, to the sunshine on your back, the food in your belly, or the special people in your life. Anything goes, there are no rules!