Outreach: The Season of Gratitude

Family celebrating Christmas at home and exchanging Christmas gifts

The holiday season is here, and for many of us, it can be an equally joyful and stressful time. As life becomes busier, and we are often confronted by stress, worry and negativity, it is important to consider ways to protect and retain our inner peace. Consider incorporating self-care, by getting enough sleep, eating healthily, and maintaining your exercise schedule; set boundaries when necessary, and allow yourself time for rest. Despite your busy schedule, grant yourself permission to slow down; you deserve it!

In addition to self-care, challenge yourself to find time in your schedule for the practice of gratitude. This practice can be a powerful tool in promoting positive mental health. It may also serve as a beacon of hope during challenging times, a reminder of the good in our lives, and a catalyst for increased self-worth and happiness. If you can only find five minutes a day, practicing gratitude can greatly benefit your mental health. According to the Mayo Clinic, “gratitude can decrease depression, anxiety, difficulties with chronic pain and risk of disease.” Taking the time to reflect on what you are thankful for can have profound effects on your well-being.

We live in a fast-paced society that idealizes solution-focused thinking. Our brains are hardwired to “just keep swimming.” But what if the solution IS slowing down and granting ourselves five minutes of reflection and gratitude? By focusing on our blessings rather than our burdens, we can re-wire our brains and shift our mindset, fostering a sense of contentment and joy.

Below you will find a few ideas for realistically incorporating gratitude into your schedule. Give them a try and see how your mindset begins to shift!

Keep a gratitude journal. Select a time during your day to sit down and reflect on three things for which you are grateful, perhaps immediately upon waking up or right before bed, as you attempt to slow your mind. This activity should take no longer than five minutes.

Reflect on positive relationships. Think of a friend, family member, or partner who brightens your day. Consider expressing your gratitude by sending them a nice text or written note. This is a great way to strengthen your relationships while simultaneously practicing gratitude.

Count your blessings. Everyone has reasons to be grateful. Take time to reflect on your many blessings. Maybe you recently landed a great job, or you appreciate the job you’ve had for many years; perhaps you have been accepted into the college of your choice; or maybe you have a clean bill of health. Whatever you choose, it can be beneficial to list your blessings as a reminder of how fortunate you are.

Because of the way our brains are hardwired, you may notice some difficulty in your initial attempts to slow down and practice gratitude. Try taking three deep breaths and repeating, “I am protecting my peace” prior to re-engaging in the activity. Through repetition and consistency, you can derive the benefits of practicing gratitude,

As the winter holidays approach, we at Outreach encourage you to take time out from the noise and the news and focus on gratitude for your own well-being and for those you love.

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer programs to youth ages 5 to 21, parents and families in a welcoming environment. 412-561-5405. This column is partially underwritten by the Mt. Lebanon Police Association.