With November upon us, there are only a few short weeks left until Thanksgiving. We are soon moving into a season where we spend a lot of time talking about gratitude. Everyone knows Thanksgiving isn't just a holiday where we get to over indulge in pumpkin pie and take a much needed break from school. It is supposed to be a day where we spend a little bit of time taking into account what we are thankful for. Maybe you are like my family who quickly goes around the table saying a thing or two we are grateful for this year before diving into dinner. Or maybe you spend an hour volunteering at a local soup kitchen serving Thanksgiving dinner to those less fortunate. Sometimes we may get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday that we can forget what the real purpose of all of it is.
Thanksgiving is just one day, but in reality we would be wise to try to incorporate gratitude into our daily lives. College is often a selfish time, even if we don't mean for it to be. We are all here focused on bettering our future so we can hopefully have the life we want someday. Our lives are likely filled with studying and stress with fun mixed in somewhere in between. How much of our day is spent thinking about others and what their needs might be? I can personally say that for me it is not nearly enough.
Gratitude benefits us by making us realize that we have enough and are good enough. If we have a roof over our heads, the ability to walk, and enough food to eat, then we are doing better than much of the world. By realizing this we can hopefully gain more of a sense of peace and fulfillment. Gratitude enables us to be less consumed with our own struggles and gain some perspective. We truly have much to be greatful for, but if we are so caught up in ourselves, and what is lacking in our lives then we won’t be able to appreciate it.
Having always been a worrier myself, I have found gratitude to bring me a great sense of relief. Gratitude focuses not on what is wrong but what is blessed and beautiful in our lives. Maybe we are struggling with a class or are having a tough semester, but how lucky are we to have the opportunity to go to college at all. Or maybe we’ve been fighting with a friend or a relationship we thought would last ends unexpectedly. We could choose to focus on this negativity or to instead focus on those people that have always been there for us without wavering.
A study done the University of California San Diego’s School of Medicine showed that people who spend more time focusing on gratitude have a healthier heart and are less likely to suffer from ailments like depression or anxiety. In addition, they are known to experience less fatigue and to have a stronger immune system.
Essentially gratitude takes us outside of ourselves and helps us to better connect with our environment and those around us. This is the exact opposite of what stress does. Spending just a few minutes or more every day can help us to spend less time dwelling on what we want or need and more time focused on how much we have already.
This season I encourage you to not only count your blessings on Thanksgiving, but to count them everyday.