It’s November! The trees are changing colors, the weather has cooled down, and it’s almost time for the holiday season. Thanksgiving is often considered the true kickoff to the holidays, and with the idea of Thanks in mind, here at DBTOC we wanted to spend a little time reflecting on gratitude this month.
Research has suggested that over time, gratitude can have many different positive impacts on our health and well-being. There has even been data showing identifiable changes in our brains with ongoing gratitude practices.
From a DBT perspective, gratitude can help us think more dialectically about our lives. Even on bad days, our ability to find something small to be thankful for reminds us that life is not ALL bad… and this is of course easier said than done.
After having kept a nightly gratitude journal for a few years now, I wanted to share some of my personal reflections on gratitude — on good days, on bad days, and on average days.
On Good Days:
On good days it is usually easy to think of something for which we are thankful. Maybe there is an obvious event that occurred (like a wedding, a party, a promotion, etc.) that we are grateful for, or maybe it was just having an overall positive vibe to your day. On these days, it doesn’t take long to think of something to write down or reflect on. It seemed to me that this act of reflection at the end of the day helped me add a tiny bit more goodness onto an already good day.
On Bad Days:
On bad days, it is usually a lot harder to think of something for which we are thankful. And we aren’t suggesting that on an awful day that you should ignore the painful things that have occurred. Rather, we are saying that if we can find just a glimmer of something to be thankful for on that day and hold space for that small slice of peace alongside the pain, it can reduce some of the extra suffering that you may be holding onto on top of the pain. For example, something as small as recognizing gratitude for that warm cup of coffee, the time to go on a walk with your dog, or even trading a few texts with a friend may provide a small spark of positivity upon reflection. On these days, reflecting on something I was grateful for during the day did not make a bad day into a good day, but it did make the day feel a little less bad.
On Average Days:
On average days, which in reality are most days, something else happened for me. Reflecting on my day before I went to sleep and thinking about what I was grateful for actually made me feel much better about the day than I already did. This wasn’t really a bad day, and it wasn’t really a good day — until I reflected on what I was thankful for from the day. On these average days, gratitude helped turn a “meh” day into a good day.
So there you have it. At least for me, daily gratitude has helped me feel even better about the good days, a little less badly about the bad days, and a lot better about the average days.
As we get closer to Thanksgiving and the new year, I encourage you to see what gratitude can do for your days. As you try out this process, be kind to yourself and hold grace for any days you skip. Even if you miss a day here and there, it’s okay to pick it up the next day, and perhaps fill in the last few days you skipped so you still have an entry for every day (which is what I do when I skip a day or two!).
Another tip is that if you notice yourself having some resistance or wilfulness to completing the gratitude journal on a certain day, which could be on pen and paper by your bed or even in the notes app on your phone, those are probably the days where that small piece of gratitude is needed the most. In addition, it may help to set a reminder, where your phone may again come in handy to alert you at the same time every day, or perhaps you want to make it a routine of reflecting on gratitude right when you wake up or right when you get in bed to go to sleep.
Good luck on your gratitude journey. If you are interested in learning more about gratitude or DBT, please feel free to reach out to us here at DBTOC by calling 949-480-7767.
Kevin Rowen, PsyD
Bonus: Here are some Apps we recommended by Positive Psychology for daily gratitude practice!
Let us know in the comments which one you selected!
Photo Credit: Marcos Paulo Prado with Unsplash