“Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery. It merely washes clean the glass you look through, so you can clearly see the colors.” – Richelle E. Goodrich

The holidays are officially upon us. As we celebrated Thanksgiving this past week, it provided us with an opportunity to reflect on the things we are grateful for.

The holidays can be a challenging time for a lot of people. It can invoke feelings of sadness or loneliness, especially missing loved ones who are no longer with you. If you are caring for a loved one adding holiday obligations can make things much more stressful and overwhelming.

How do we cultivate an attitude of gratitude throughout the holidays and well into the new year? Being grateful, especially in the midst of challenging circumstances, is no easy undertaking. Suggesting gratitude is by no means trying to discount or invalidate what you may be going through. It is simply a tool that when utilized can help bring some form of peace or joy to what sometimes feels like a hopeless situation. I am not saying practicing gratitude is going to instantly bring us bliss and happiness, but it can make life a little easier.

So what does cultivating an attitude of gratitude mean or even look like? We have all most likely heard of gratitude lists. You may have even tried making a list of what you are grateful for, and by the time you find yourself listing your coffee maker, you decide you are done with your list and move on. Instead of getting overwhelmed by making a huge gratitude list try these three easy ways to bring gratitude into your life.

3 practical ways to cultivate gratitude:

1.) Have you ever tried reflecting on your day and finding three things you are grateful for specific to that day? Being specific, forces you to find the good in each day. It may be as simple as being grateful that you had the time to sit and drink a cup of coffee or felt good enough to get outside and feel the sun on your face. Paying attention to life’s positives can train you to see more of them. Try writing down the three things that you are grateful for each day, this way you can look back at it, and it can be a good reminder. If you miss a day, no problem! It can take practice and if it ends up being just a couple times a week, that’s better than nothing.

2.) Another way to attain more gratitude is by shifting our perspectives. For example, if we catch ourselves being frustrated with all the housework, we can instead be grateful that we have our own home. Or when we find ourselves complaining about our jobs, we can instead be grateful that we have an income. There is nothing wrong with striving to achieve more in life, but we can never truly be happy if we are not content with what we already have.

3.) Additionally, try incorporating small acts of kindness. Understanding, that you already have a full plate; it is good to be realistic and not put more pressure on yourself. It can be as simple as writing a “thinking of you” note to a neighbor, letting someone skip ahead of you in line, taking flowers to your doctor’s office, giving a smile or complimenting a stranger. You never know the impact this can have on someone!

Research studies are finding the connection between gratitude and increased levels of health and wellness. One recent study from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that people who were more grateful had better heart health (specifically less inflammation), healthier heart rhythms, a less depressed mood, less fatigue and better sleep. It has been shown that having a daily gratitude practice could actually reduce the effects of aging in the brain. Robert A Emmons, a professor of psychology at University of California, Davis, said “gratitude works because, as a way of perceiving and interpreting life, it recruits other positive emotions that have direct physical benefits, most likely through the immune or endocrine systems.”

So this holiday season, try out some of these suggestions to promote gratitude, as it can so easily get lost when life gets hard. If you are an older adult feeling lonely and isolated or you are a family member of an aging loved one feeling overwhelmed reach out to Denver Senior Care. Let them help you navigate and address the challenges that come with aging and caring for aging loved ones.