As the turkey leftovers are finished and extended family has traveled back to their homes, you may be feeling the push, push, push of Holiday consumerism and what can be referred to as the gap in gratitude which occurs between Thanksgiving and Christmas. November is known for being a month filled with thankfulness. We see it shared on social media, children focus on it in their classrooms and even television commercials target feelings of gratitude more than just the next shiny gadget. Then, in the flip of a calendar page we enter December full steam ahead into the fast paced, at times greedy nature of the commercial Holiday season. I don’t say this to shame anyone or to say that I myself don’t spend hours searching for the best deal and perfect gift for my loved ones but I find myself asking if there is a way to bridge the gap between the gratitude of Thanksgiving and the “give me more” attitude that can creep into the Christmas season.
It is important to recognize, gratitude and the effects of being grateful go far beyond simply saying thank you. Robert A. Emmons, a professor in psychology, in connection with The John Templeton Foundation has done extensive research in regard to the physical and emotional health that comes from gratitude including lowered blood pressure and improved relationships. The Wall Street Journal recently featured an essay referencing the work of Robert Emmons as well as others who have found that “gratitude helps us savor the good in our lives rather than taking it for granted and yearning for what’s next.” So how do we incorporate gratitude into the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season? I think the easiest step is to be intentional about gratitude and making sure to acknowledge what you are grateful for daily. You can start a gratitude journal where you daily take time to write what you are thankful for or be intentional to name three positive things each day for which you feel grateful. It really can be as simple as asking your kids or partner what they are grateful for on the car ride home or while sharing a meal, saying thank you to others around you as you go about your day or making a mental note of something positive and focusing on that note throughout the day. Sending thank you notes is an important habit to get into as the holiday season approaches and no note is too small. It is good practice to be grateful but also to give as the act of giving can improve mood and lead to feelings of gratitude as well. Work to practice random acts of kindness such as walking a stranger’s shopping cart to the bay for them or paying it forward as you buy your morning coffee. This is a season where you can enhance the entire experience through intentional gratitude and giving back to others. Start small, I am willing to bet once you feel the positive effects of intentional gratitude you will be excited to bridge the gratitude gap for yourself.