“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Thanksgiving holiday, and this season of the year, have long been a special time to pause to give thanks for the people and moments in our lives that make them truly special. This year, as we continue to navigate this global pandemic, this practice of gratitude is more than simply a display of holiday spirit — it can be a way to practice good self-care.
Over the past few decades, there have been a number of studies in the positive psychology field related to the practice of thankfulness and expressions of gratitude. As it turns out, there are many benefits to the act of giving thanks that can impact everything from the quality of your sleep to your overall physical health.
Yet, as we continue to face new challenges daily due to this pandemic, it may be hard at times to identify reasons to feel grateful. When the stress of shifting how we teach, learn and work combines with concerns for friends and loved ones, it is often hard to find moments to celebrate.
Around this time each year, I challenge my family to identify and recognize the people and things that inspire their gratitude. This year, I ask you, too, to find your reason to feel thankful.
Over the long holiday weekend, spend a few moments in thoughtful reflection about the people who supported you this year and about the wins you have had — even the small ones, like choosing to put in a little extra effort on an assignment or task and feeling good about the outcome. Think about the moments you have had with the people you care about, in person or virtually, that kept you going.
And then I encourage you to write them down. I regularly send handwritten thank-you notes to people on campus who have assisted or supported me. I hope this gesture makes the recipient feel good, and it also is enjoyable and fulfilling for me; it Is a “task” I genuinely look forward to completing. Send a thank-you note or even an email to someone who inspired you, or start a gratitude journal and write down some of the people and things you feel thankful for in 2020. Count your blessings. Put your positivity and gratitude out into the world, and brighten the day for the people around you.
I will share an example from my own experience during the pandemic. When we had to shift to remote-only operations in spring, I was able to have dinner with my family every night for a month — something we have never been able to do in my daughter’s life. We played board games, I told “bad Dad jokes,” and, most importantly, we spent serious quality time together. Those are memories I will cherish forever. Although it feels strange to say it, I am grateful that this pandemic gave us the opportunity to slow down and spend time together.
I hope that this holiday season you are able to step away from the frustrations and challenges of school and work, and spend time engaged with people and activities that fill your soul. Find moments that inspire gratitude, and share them with others, whether virtually or in person.
Be well, take care and Happy Thanksgiving.