Oh my GOURDness, can you believe we made it? Made it to the holiday season? Well, beLEAF it or not, we’re here.  And, not to be too cheesy, but boy am I GRATEful. With all the puns aside, as we enter the Thanksgiving holiday, it seems appropriate to talk about gratefulness. 

The holiday season often brings rushing and chaos {and maybe some snow}.  We often skip right from Halloween to Christmas – sticking a thanksgiving dinner somewhere in between.  

It’s easy to forget to stop and smell the ̶r̶o̶s̶e̶s̶ …I mean, pumpkin pie {okay, so not all jokes aside}.  We sometimes forget to be grateful for the yearly events or people in our lives.  And even more often, we forget to be grateful for the small things. We are so quick to move forward. So quick to move to our next event, task, or assignment.  I am sure I am not the first person sharing this with you. We need to be more intentional about being grateful. Being present in each moment, intentionally. But gratefulness is not just “good advice”, it is also healthy for our bodies – both physically and mentally.

And guess what?! There is science at the brain-based level behind gratefulness! I know what you’re thinking, *everyone always says ‘it changes the brain’ but, what does that even mean?!*

Let’s talk about it! 

Gratitude has been proven to increase our dopamine and serotonin levels and reduce our stress hormone.  Not only are we able to recognize positive shifts in hormone levels, but further research has found that gratitude actually activates our brain’s reward system and shows up in a region of our brains called the Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex (VMPFC).  This specific region has been found to be responsible for regulating emotional responses. Researchers found that when we experience gratefulness it calms down our parasympathetic system. All that to say, gratitude stimulates our brains to make us calm and happy.  Continued practice of gratitude has been shown to promote the development of cognitive restructuring.  

What would it look like to spend the weeks or days {how did Thanksgiving sneak up so quickly} leading up to Thanksgiving practicing gratefulness.  Being grateful for special moments and memories. Being grateful for what we have. Being grateful for the mundane. Practicing WITH {key word – with, as in together} our kiddos helps them to fall into this habit early in life, and leads to better attunement, relationships, and can lead to stronger resilience in adulthood.  

What does practicing gratitude look like?! {I really love when you guys ask the hard hitting questions!}  It may seem like a daunting task and it will definitely require some effort on your part {but let’s be real, what DOESN’T require effort?!} So let’s get started today:

-create a gratitude journal, and utilize it every day

-create conversations about what you are grateful for at the end of each day

-say “thank you” after someone does anything for you.

-stop and smell the pumpkin pie {and the roses}

-go out of your way to do something nice for someone

-give someone a compliment

This is how we begin to practice gratefulness.  When we are intentional to focus on what we are grateful for in our positive and mundane moments, our brains are more able to easily access that positive thinking in our difficult and chaotic moments and seasons.  

So let’s re-train our brains and practice together, today I am grateful for….

*The information contained herein is not therapeutic advice nor a substitute for therapy. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any mental health problem. If you are located within the United States and you need emergency assistance please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are located within Colorado you may also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK (8255).

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