It’s November, which means the holiday season has official started. For many people, this time of year is marked by festivities, joy and celebrations, but for others, it can be a difficult time marked by anxiety, depression and sadness.

Feeling lost or overwhelmed or just plain down during holiday season can have a very real effect on your health. Stress is one of the leading causes of body aches, headaches and other issues patients come to our chiropractic clinic in Vancouver to fix.

If your feeling stressed at this time of year, one aspect of the season can actually improve your mood and lift your spirits — cultivating gratitude.

Stemming from the Latin for “grace,” gratitude is the thoughtful appreciation for something you receive, either intangible or tangible. It’s a way to recognize the goodness in your life, and cultivating it helps connect you to something larger than yourself, like another person, nature or the community.

Research tells us that gratitude is good for our health. It’s consistently associated with higher degrees of happiness, and people who acknowledge and express their gratitude have lower stress levels, stronger relationships and more positive experiences.

Psychologists from the University of California, Davis and the University of Miami found that patients who write down lists of things they are grateful for versus lists of things that annoy or displease them were more optimistic and had better overall feelings about their lives. The people who expressed gratitude also made less trips to the doctor and exercised more.

A host of other studies show the same results — that expressing gratitude has a huge effect on our happiness and, in turn, our health.

How to Cultivate Gratitude

To reap these benefits, try these simple practices. They may feel a bit contrived when you get started, but with practice, you’ll cultivate a stronger attitude of gratitude.

Write thank-you notes.

Send a least one thank-you note a month. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that people who wrote and delivered a thank-you letter to someone in their lives who hadn’t been properly thanked for a kindness experienced a significant increase in happiness levels. The improvement lasted for a month!

Think about someone who deserves a thank you for the impact they’ve had on your life. Say thanks, then pop the letter in the mail or deliver it yourself.

Meditate on what you’re grateful for each day.

Not in the mood to write? Spend a few moments each day to think about people who’ve helped you or brought you joy. Mentally thank them for their support.

Keep a journal.

Start a habit of jotting down a few things you are grateful for each day or week. Be specific in your list, and once you are done writing down a thought, take a moment to recall how it felt when you experienced the thing that made you feel good.

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