Let's make January a month of gratitude
At CDI, our mission is to transform the lives of children, youth and their families by developing and delivering world-class, innovative and evidence-based mental health programs. As an organization we are always searching for practical strategies to share with our community to help them become healthier and happier in mind, body and spirit. CDI has dedicated the month of January to gratitude because it is a form of positive expression which has been scientifically linked to greater life happiness when incorporated into one’s everyday life.
According to Harvard University’s Medical School, the act of gratitude has been found to be an effective strategy used to combat mental health issues by replacing and overriding negative emotions with positive ones, leading to improved health and well-being, enhanced coping with adversity, advanced resiliency and better quality relationships.
As the 2018 year kicks off many people are spending time reflecting on the year that passed - introspectively assessing and mapping out goals to accomplish over the span of the new year. January is often viewed as a symbolic month for fresh starts, new beginnings and ‘turning-the-page’ both figuratively and literally. With people joining the gym, bucket-lists being written and new mindfulness routines being practiced, many are searching for new ways to achieve emotional and physical health.
One way to express gratitude is through active positive engagement. This could mean volunteering with a non-profit organization, participating in community service or attending fundraising events. Another great way to deliver or express thankfulness is to perform one random act-of-kindness each day, such as paying for a coffee for a person behind you at the drive-thru, baking cookies for employees at work or donating gently-used clothes to a charity. Paying-it-forward shows appreciation for the present and future and is likely to snow-ball in effect by way of reciprocity, leading to better relationships and a happier outlook on life.
Smiling has been proven to have profound positive psychological effects. A bright smile shown to a stranger has the ability to brighten one’s day and can be interpreted as a form of gratitude for life. Smiling impacts how you are received by others as well as how you interact with the world. By offering a smiling face you are inadvertently inviting others into your space and allowing them to feel comfortable around you without judgment. This can increase your quality of relationships at work or in your family by appearing friendly and open to engagement.
3. Write in a journal
Writing in a gratitude journal is a fantastic way to actively focus on the positive. As we all know, there can be many highs and lows in life and one way to not get overwhelmed by potential adversity is to write three things you are grateful for on a daily basis. This exercise can open your mind to new perspectives, foster better coping skills and help you to find silver linings in every life occurrence. Expressing gratitude every day in this way has been scientifically linked to better resiliency as it is a form of positive emotional release that stretches your mind to see situations in a new light.
4. Write a thank-you note
Writing a thank-you note to someone in your life can be a way to express gratitude to those who have shown you kindness. A thank-you note can be positive reinforcement to those you care for and helps others to feel appreciated. This act of gratitude can foster better relationships with others and enhance your ability to acknowledge good deeds. This form of exercise can also provide you with a way to absorb positive deeds and emotions so they can be recycled back into your own sphere of influence.
A tip for children: You can teach children the power of gratitude by helping them write thank you cards to their friends after a birthday party.
Mindfulness meditation is a way for you to de-clutter and de-stress from the noise and commitments of everyday life. It is a time to focus on peaceful thoughts and be present in the moment. It can alleviate pressure in your life by giving 5-10 minutes each day to acknowledge those things around you that contribute positively to your life – you can thank the sun for warmth, your pets for companionship, nature for its beauty or even the birds outside your window for their pleasant sound.