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16 November, 2023.

November is National Gratitude Month

November is National Gratitude Month, a chance to take small moments each day and reflect on what we are grateful for. November’s largest holiday, Thanksgiving, begins the lead-up to family gatherings, holiday cheer, and opportunities for stress, anxiety, and familial angst. This month, The Family Counseling Center is offering insight into how the practice of gratitude can have a positive impact on your overall mental wellbeing during the holiday season.

What is Gratitude?

Gratitude goes deeper than giving thanks. It is the conscious accounting of the small moments of positivity in your life or your day. According to Sydney Gabryshak, LMHC, an Outpatient Mental Health Therapist at The Family Counseling Center of Fulton County, “Gratitude is being mindful of the little moments that make us happy, not just the big things. It is a way to not fast forward through our days but instead quietly reflecting and appreciating our experiences.”

What is the Impact of Gratitude?

Studies have shown that a single act of thoughtful gratitude produces an immediate 10% increase in happiness and a 35% reduction in depressive symptoms, but the effects can disappear within a matter of weeks. Making gratitude a daily practice can bring your focus into the present and recognize the “little wins” throughout the day. The more you practice gratitude, the longer the positive impact on stress and mental health it can have.

“It takes five positive actions or memories to outdo one negative experience,” says Gabryshak. “Your brain naturally wants to hold onto the negative more. So, if you start to practice gratitude you begin to build up recognition of the positive moments and see them much more often in your life. Practicing gratitude is a mindfulness or grounding technique. It helps us calm our emotions and focus on a moment of positivity.”

Practicing Daily Gratitude

There are many ways one can practice gratitude including keeping a gratitude journal, meditation, and sharing your gratitude with others through statements and deeds. These practices help to remind an individual of the gifts, benefits, and good things they enjoy even for ordinary events like the pleasure a hot cup of coffee can bring.

Focus on the good

Some days gratitude can be hard to find. Taking the time to slow down and focus on your senses of sight, touch, smell, and hearing can bring you back into the moment. There doesn’t have to be anything big going on in order to find moments of gratitude. The smell of a neighbor’s wood stove, the view of a bird on a branch, the feel of the breeze on your face…these are all small moments of wonder that can be appreciated.

Share your gratitude with others

Expressing gratitude to others, especially friends and family, can strengthen your relationships. Expressing gratitude to strangers spreads a moment of joy. You feel good because you have helped someone else recognize the small thing they did as a positive. “It’s important to remember that your normal may make someone else very happy. We often take moments or actions for granted without even realizing it,” adds Gabryshak. “By practicing gratitude, we are able to pull out those positive moments throughout the day and share them with others.”