The holiday season is a time to reflect, celebrate and be thankful for many aspects of life however practicing gratitude throughout the year is just as important as practicing gratitude around the holidays. Gratitude is more than saying “thank you”. Studies have shown that gratitude promotes positive well-being in a surprisingly large amount of ways and is encouraged among the mental health community.

Staying connected through gratitude

Gratitude has the ability to strengthen and improve relationships as well as promote new connections. Research shows those who practice gratitude are more likely to offer emotional support and assistance, share their possessions with others and forgive more willingly. Consequently, grateful people are rated as more helpful and more generous by their social networks than those who are relatively less grateful. Expressing gratitude for positive people around you can help those who are struggling with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Anxious individuals could potentially feel more at ease when they express gratitude and share their experience with others. Staying connected within your community whether it is through friends, support groups, hobby/activity groups can promote emotional and mental healing and growth.

Gratitude improves mental health

A large study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University showed that thankfulness predicted a significantly lower risk of major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, phobia, nicotine dependence, alcohol dependence and drug abuse. Coping with anxiety or depression around the holidays can be stressful as the holiday season can be a trigger for low moods, the urge to use drugs or alcohol or a trigger for loneliness however practicing gratitude on a daily basis around the holidays can potential reduce cravings and negative triggers.

Gratitude, holiday shopping and the “have-nots”

Everyone will always have more than some and less than others. There will always be someone better than you at something and you will always be better at something than someone else. Looking at the gratitude glass “half full” rather than “half empty” around the holidays can keep you in better spirits. Constantly expressing gratitude for what you do have instead of worrying about what you don’t have can make you appreciate your life. As a society, we compare ourselves to others and oftentimes focus on what we want instead of being grateful for the things we have, even if they are simple things. This holiday season, try focusing on the haves rather than the have-nots and make it a point to give more rather than receive from others. This can have a large impact on holiday shopping, as the thankful holiday shopper is less impulsive and less of a consumerist. He makes wiser decisions with his money, with a focus on his long-term financial health because when you practice gratitude, the impulse you feel to spend calms down.

Expressing gratitude after the holiday season

Saying grace at Thanksgiving and giving to other around Christmas are positive mindsets however gratitude should be expressed and practice all year around. Although those who are battling a mental health disorder are more prone to develop symptoms around the holidays, they are still at risk for low moods and unsafe behaviors after the holidays have ended. Many therapists and counselors incorporate gratitude into their therapy techniques and encourage individuals to practice gratitude throughout the year.