Traditionally, Thanksgiving Day marks a celebration and expression of gratitude. Gratitude and acknowledgement for all of the positive aspects in your life during which you acknowledge your basic needs being met (e.g., a roof over your head to sleep, clean water, food), the material goods in your life, friends, family and loved ones.
Many studies have found that when you cultivate gratitude, you are more likely to be happier, cope more adaptively and increase your relationships with the people who you love.1,2,3 You are also less likely to get stressed or depressed and will engage in fewer negative coping behaviors, such as substance abuse.4
Acknowledging the positive aspects in your life may be challenging for you; particularly, when you focus or hold on to negative emotions like frustration, anger and resentment. Holding on to negative emotions towards situations and people in your life can exacerbate the painful conditions you are trying to avoid or change.
Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to cultivate a grateful heart and reap its many psychological benefits. In order to have an attitude of appreciation, you must first release and let go of any negative emotions that you are holding on to in your life. Like any skill, you must also practice appreciation in order to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
To help you release negative emotions, try the traditional Hawaiian practice of Hoʻoponopono. This traditional practice of forgiveness or reconciliation will help you to open your heart and mind to the many blessings in your life. It is defined in the Hawaiian Dictionary as a “mental cleansing: family conferences in which relationships were set right through prayer, discussion, confession, repentance, and mutual restitution and forgiveness.”
To practice, simply bring to your awareness to the difficult situation or person with whom you are holding on to a negative emotion. As you visualize the situation or person, repeat in your mind and affirm “I’m sorry,” “Please forgive me,” “Thank you” and “I love you.” Let go of the need to find blame, be gentle and refrain from judging yourself. Continue the practice for 5 – 10 minutes. Do this every day for a few weeks and you will experience a shift in your heart and be more open and receptive to the good graces in your life.
As you let go of the negative emotions that are holding you back and cultivate gratitude, you will also want to keep a gratitude journal. Start each morning reflecting on the people, situations or aspects of your life for which you are grateful. You can use The 5 Minute Gratitude Journal that has prompts for you to write down 2 aspects each morning. Gratitude journals have been found to help people experience more positive emotions and reduce painful feelings like depression in many psychological studies.5
In order to sustain and cherish the love in your life, it is simultaneously important to learn to notice, pay attention and forgive. We all commit errors, make mistakes and act in ways that only with the perspective of maturity and growth we later regret or feel contrite about in life. As the English poet Alexandar Pope has eloquently stated “to err is human; to forgive, divine.”
You cannot avoid the pain that invariable comes from acting in a manner that you or your loved one now would act in differently. In seeking to minimize or avoid your pain, you also cut yourself off from experiencing human virtues like joy, love, appreciation and gratitude. So in order to cultivate and nourish these “feel good” emotions, you must be willing to make room for them and hold them lightly. So this week on Thanksgiving Day, learn to notice how you feel, allow and make room for all emotions and cultivate gratitude by releasing the painful emotions that hold you back and notice the abundance in your life.
To your health,
To learn more about how working with a psychologist and holistic health coach can help you to enhance your health and well-being, call or email Dr. Sandoval to schedule a free consultation.
- Algoe, Sara B.; Fredrickson, Barbara L.; Gable, Shelly L. “The social functions of the emotion of gratitude via expression.” Emotion, (2013) 13(4), 605-609.
- Emmons, R.A., McCullough, M.E. “Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. (2003) 84(2), 377-389.
- Gordon, A.M.; Impett, E.A.; Kogan, A.; Oveis, C.; Keltner, D. “To have and to hold: Gratitude promotes relationship maintenance in intimate bonds. “ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2012) 03(2) 257-274.
- Grant, A. M.; Gino, F. “A little thanks goes a long way: Explaining why gratitude expressions motivate prosocial behavior.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. (2010) 98(6), 946-955.
- Lyubomirsky, Sonja; Dickerhoof, Rene; Boehm, Julia K.; Sheldon, Kennon M. “Becoming happier takes both a will and a proper way: An experimental longitudinal intervention to boost well-being.” Emotion (2011)11(2), 391-402.
The information, published and/or made available through the www.drjosesandoval.com website, is not intended to replace the services of a physician, nor does it constitute a physician-patient relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use the information in this post for diagnosing or treating a medical or health condition. You should consult a physician in all matters relating to your health, particularly in respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention. Any action on the reader’s part in response to the information provided in this blog is at the reader’s discretion.