How can we reflect on being thankful this Thanksgiving season when things are so darn busy and stressful? Shopping lists, preparing for winter, less sunlight, and all the things we are missing about summer or all the things we have put off until now are ganging up on us and dragging down our happiness levels.

We know prolonged life stressors have a negative health impact if not alleviated. Why is it so hard to break through the anxiety? According to Jon Gordon, “In many ways it’s not our fault. Science tells us that when we feel busy and stressed we activate the reptilian part of our brain. If you know anything about reptiles they will never love you. Reptiles want to eat you. They are all about survival. And so are we when we feel busy and stressed. Creating meaningful relationships is the last thing on our mind when we are stressed. Instead our reptilian brain is thinking about how to just make it through the day and it will eat anyone for lunch that gets in its way. The good news, however, is that we have another part of the brain called the neocortex. I call it the Positive Dog part of our brain and we activate it when we love, care, pray, and practice gratitude. In any moment we can override the reptile with the positive dog.”
So, to take all the science jargon out of it, when we get stressed, our brain fights happy and its harder to be thankful. What we focus on, we become. By purposefully focusing on the positive aspects of your life you can cultivate a thankfulness that will effortlessly carry you through the rest of the year. Follow these 5 tips to get started:
1. Keep a Thankfulness Journal. Each morning or evening, set aside 5 minutes to reflect and write three things you are thankful for. Some days it might be just clean water to drink and air to breathe; but as you continue you will discover you have a lot more to be thankful for than you realize.
2. Be kind. Even the best of us need a reminder sometimes. Give one sincere compliment daily. Being kind to others makes us feel good too.
3. Share with others. Most of us could use a good Spring Cleaning of our homes, again, and again, and again. Sort through those dark attic corners and donate items you haven’t used in years. It will free up space, help someone in need, and make you feel better for being helpful.
4. Eat healthy and get outside. Everything is harder when you don’t feel good. Times of stress are especially sapping; on our physical well-being as well as our mental well-being. Cut out processed foods, drink more water, and enjoy more walks outside to boost your brain’s natural feel-good levels.
5. Think about what life would be like without everything you currently have. This exercise helps you bring new perspective to all the positive things you have in your life.