Happiness tip: Trade gifts for gratitude

The secret to avoiding disappointment this Christmas? Read on.

Information in this article is provided courtesy of Christine Carter, Ph.D., sociologist, acclaimed author of “Raising Happiness” and 2015 Go Confidently speaker for Norton Healthcare.

Do the holidays leave you feeling frustrated or disappointed?

This time of year, it’s easy to place too much emphasis on gift-giving, gift-buying or gift-receiving, leading to feelings of let-down.

One of the best ways to recover from disappointment is to place more emphasis on gratitude. Yes, this is another article about gratitude. But, read on and give it a chance.

Gratitude is one of the most powerful positive emotions we have — we have reams of research indicating that gratitude is a part of the happiness holy grail. Compared with those who aren’t practicing gratitude, scientists have found that people practicing gratitude:

         Are considerably more enthusiastic, interested and determined

         Feel 25 percent happier

         Are more likely to be both kind and helpful to other

And that’s not all. Gratitude studies report long lists of the benefits of gratitude. For example, people who jotted down something they were grateful for online everyday for just two weeks showed higher stress resilience and greater satisfaction with life, reported fewer headaches, and a reduction in stomach pain, coughs and sore throats!

Gratitude is a SKILL, like learning to speak German or swing a bat: It can be taught, and it needs to be practiced consciously and deliberately. Yet, unlike learning German, practicing gratitude can be blissfully simple: Just count the things in your life that you feel thankful for.

Here’s how to get started this holiday season:

Start a tradition of writing “appreciations” on place cards at holiday meals. Depending on your comfort level for group sharing, make place cards for each person, and then ask people to write a few adjectives that describe what they appreciate about one another on the inside of the place cards. Don’t ask people to write something about everyone present unless they want to — you don’t want to force the exercise. But do make sure that everyone has at least one thing written inside their place card, so that during the meal you can go around the table and share appreciations.

For those you won’t see during the holidays, try writing appreciations in holiday cards.

Keep (and give) a gratitude journal. This can be a handwritten journal or kept online (there are loads of web-based versions) or even just jotted down in your calendar. Every day record something that makes you happy, something you’re grateful for — either by typing it in or by taking a picture. Share your gratitude with loved ones. How about giving gratitude journals to those you love?

Happy holidays!


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