Practice Resilience and Gratitude this Holiday Season

The phrase “Tis the season to be jolly” can either be absolutely true during the holidays, or the complete opposite. For some, the holiday season brings happiness and good spirits. But for others, stress comes in many forms. This could stem from too many gifts to buy in a short amount of time, crowded stores, family conflicts, financial worries, or even the weather.

While some of these factors may be beyond our control, there are several ways to help fight the stress of the season. By focusing on our Resilience skills, we can learn to be more mindful and in turn, more grateful.

To increase Resilience, start with mindfulness. Mindfulness means giving attention and awareness to the present moment. Humans spend a lot of time reliving the past and ruminating about the future. When we are mindful, we focus on the present experience. To practice this, take some time to be still and reflect on the holiday season for what it is. It’s amazing how this simple action can help reduce stress and increase Resiliency.

Practice Gratitude

Gratitude is another simple approach with powerful results. On average, people experience three times as many positive events, information and interactions as negative ones.  However, the negative experiences capture our attention. To build Resilience, we must train our brains to focus on the positives.  One way to do this is to practice gratitude.  Scientific studies reveal that gratitude is associated with greater happiness, optimism, empathy and lower aggression.

In preparation for the holidays, devote a small portion of time each week to list all the things you are thankful for, in spite of your stress. People who do this after two months tend to feel more happy and optimistic.

Give Support to Others

Mark Twain is quoted as saying “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up”.  Giving can be very energizing and an effective way of reducing stress. A way to give during the holidays is to articulate gratitude to others. Simple statements of gratitude to others for who they are and what they are doing are like small gifts, often appreciated more than a box of chocolates.

Gratitude and giving add meaning to our lives, distracts us from our own problems and helps us feel valued by others.  Research shows that when we give support to others, we activate reward regions of our brains and inhibit amygdala activity, which reduces stress and increases Resiliency.

While these approaches to becoming more Resilient may seem simple – or even obvious – people who take time to be thankful for their lives in big or small ways and who prioritize acts of giving feel more connected, engaged and empathic toward their friends and work colleagues.

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