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Maria Cordova

By Maria Cordova

Each year, when the holiday season rolls around, we are reminded of the heartwarming memories associated with these festive times. However, it is unrealistic to believe that this is the case for everyone.

Around this time, it may be easy to feel isolated when everyone around you is joyful, but the reality is, you are not alone.

“Holiday blues” during the festive season are due to high and unrealistic expectations, stress, and financial strain. Gratitude has been known to be helpful, especially when figuring out how to manage the overwhelming feelings that come with the holiday season.

Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation and being thankful for what you have. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude in different ways improves your overall mental health while also aiding your interpersonal relationships.

A study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University stated, “Thankfulness predicted significantly lower risk of major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, phobia, nicotine dependence, alcohol dependence, and drug ‘abuse’ or dependence.” 

Not only does gratitude help you emotionally, there’s growing research that explores how it also helps your physical health.

Paul Mills, a professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego, measured the impact of gratitude on physical health among individuals who have heart conditions. Mills found that because feelings of stress and anxiety tend to increase the risk of heart disease, gratitude can actually lower your risk and develop a healthier heart. 

Expressing your gratitude has significant benefits to your health and well-being. There are numerous ways to practice it, and it only takes a few moments.

One of the most popular ways to practice gratitude is to keep a journal. A recommendation would be to write at the beginning of your day and at the end of your day, a few times a week. This entry could be as simple as writing about the weather or your own wellness; either way, this exercise has proven to induce positive emotions. 

If journaling is not your thing, creating a list on a piece of paper or your mobile device would also work just fine. This list could include places, things, or people that you are grateful for in your life.

This could also be as simple as sending someone a quick text expressing your appreciation for them. Gratitude can also be expressed by setting aside time to contemplate about five to 10 things for which you are grateful. 

The more you practice gratitude, the more natural it will come to you. Research has shown that it takes about eight weeks of exercising gratitude for the brain to rewire into a more positive mindset and increased empathy. 

Sufficient research has shown that gratitude is a powerful tool for your mental health. The importance of exercising gratitude is the reflection that induces a positive mindset that stays with you.

The holiday season comes with an overwhelming number of emotions, but practicing gratitude has proven to help you no matter what time of the year. 

Maria Cordova is a project coordinator for the Wellness & Prevention Center. Under the Mental Health Awareness Training grant, Maria will facilitate Youth Mental Health First Aid training to adults and parents in English and Spanish, to increase mental health literacy, reduce stigma, and encourage help-seeking behaviors among young people. 

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