To Cope With Stress Make Gratefulness a New Ritual This Thanksgiving

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thanksgivingMany families will kick off the holiday season this Thursday with a sumptuous and satisfying Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is almost exclusively an American holiday; it is about people who care about each other gathering together to eat traditional dishes and catching up by sharing stories and laughs. At my family’s Thanksgiving feast, no matter how many are around the table, each person is asked to say out loud something she or he is thankful for. This is one of the rituals of our Thanksgiving tradition.

Rituals are good to have in our lives. Children who are raised with rituals are more resilient as adults. Children do better in families with rituals, even when life is disrupted by awful circumstances, because rituals provide stability. We gain stability from being able to predict some parts of our lives in a very unpredictable world. The practice of a ritual can actually ease tensions and stress in our relationships. Rituals are a simple way to show the value of making a plan and seeing it through.

Thanksgiving is a time when many people recognize what they are thankful for – this idea is not that dissimilar from the idea of practicing gratefulness, a concept we often talk about in our Coping with Stress trainings. Researchers have found that making a conscious effort, taking even just the brief time to acknowledge something for which we are grateful, has a big benefit for our health by reducing anxiety and stress (learn how to practice gratefulness).

This Thanksgiving, we encourage you to start a new ritual of practicing gratefulness every day. In your own home, or at the Thanksgiving table surrounded by friends and family, identify something that you are grateful for. As the days get colder and the holiday season intensifies, try to be consciously grateful about at least one thing every day.

Here are the things I am going to concentrate on as objects of my gratefulness this year. You can use them, too, if you want. I am grateful for the people who in any year, on any holiday, work to keep my environment and life safe, provide care if I am at risk, and support me as I regain safety. I am grateful for our police, our firefighters, all the nurses, emergency and trauma doctors, train, plane, and bus drivers and mechanics, and the military personnel – Navy – Army – Air Force – Coast Guard – Marine Corps – Special Forces – in our country and deployed to other world assignments. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Charlene Gooch, PhD, MFT

Trainer for Families for Depression Awareness

Practicing gratefulness is an excellent way to manage stress, particularly around the holidays. Next week we will start posting a series of blogs focused on the sources of holiday stress and some practical tips on how to cope.

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