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  • Andrew Stephenson

For Healthier Holidays, Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude

To say 2020 has been a challenging year is an understatement. For many, this winter and holiday season will be incredibly difficult. We don't want to diminish that in any way, and for anyone who is truly overwhelmed, please reach out to people you trust and seek help.

From challenging and unusual circumstances also comes opportunity. Why not take the opportunity of a different looking holiday to create a new tradition? For many, traditional holidays are actually incredibly stressful. Rushed and busy travel, short work deadlines, expectations of extravagant meals and entertaining, hosting responsibilities, strained family relationships... there are numerous circumstances that rob the joy of the holidays for many. Perhaps the circumstances we find ourselves in for Thanksgiving 2020 is an opportunity to decompress a little, a chance to truly take a few days to rest and recover and work on self-care.

Perhaps one of the best things you could do this year is practice Thanksgiving in a literal sense. Stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and burnout have all become hallmarks of 2020... the "Year of the Pandemic". Research consistently shows that practicing gratitude can have a significant positive impact on our health and wellbeing. Our physical and mental health are intricately intertwined. It's difficult to thrive on one side without the other. To take care of ourselves physically we need psychological energy and motivation.

Cultivating optimism is good for your health. This article in Psychology Today indicates a significant body of research that says optimistic people are healthier and live longer. They have better cardiovascular health—even after risk factors are controlled for, stronger immune function, and lower levels of stress and pain.

Given the multiple stressors that many have endured this year, it's understanding that some people are feeling more pessimistic and find themselves stuck in a loop of negativity.

While it's certainly not as simple as just saying "snap out of it", the deliberate practice of mindfulness and gratitude can go a long way towards helping shift your inner attention back towards things that are more positive. It can be empowering to actively challenge your own thoughts - asking yourself if certain thoughts are productive - and combine that with making a choice to practice positive reflection and gratitude.

"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way." Viktor E. Frankl

Practicing gratitude is about looking to appreciate what you have instead of always reaching for something new. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to cultivate gratitude. Turn away from all the negative attention surrounding 2020, and try noticing the goodness in your life.

Harvard researchers suggest some simple ways to practice gratitude, and we encourage you to adopt some of these this holiday season:

  • Write a thank-you note: This not only makes you happier, but it also has a positive impact on others and strengthens your relationship.

  • Thank someone mentally: While this doesn't have the same benefit for others, even mentally thinking about thanking someone can help foster feelings of gratitude in yourself.

  • Keep a gratitude journal: Make a habit to write down or share with loved ones your thoughts about positive things and gifts you receive each day.

  • Make a gratitude wall: In your home or office, designate a board or small space where you can write or stick things that remind you of things you are grateful for. Routinely change and update your gratitude wall so that it remains fresh and meaningful.

  • Count your blessings: Pick a time each week to sit down and reflect on what went right or what you are grateful for. Pick a number - maybe three or five things to try to identify and write down each week.

  • Pray: If it's meaningful for you, this is a good way to express your gratitude.

There are many ways to express gratitude. Feel free to leave a comment and share how practicing gratitude helps you promote your own wellbeing.

The whole HBD family wishes everyone a safe, healthy, and enjoyable Thanksgiving. If we can help you promote mental fitness and wellbeing in your workforce, please reach out.


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