Food for Thought: What does Christmas mean to you?

| December 30, 2020 12:00 AM

Christmas means different things to many people.

For some, it is about buying gifts, decorating trees and attending parties. For others, it is a spiritual time for reflection and celebrating the birth of Christ. No matter what Christmas means to you, one should consider giving the gift of GRATITUDE to oneself.

Historically many religions refer to gratitude as the need to be thankful to a higher power as an approach to a good life.

Melody Beattie, author and life coach, believes “Gratitude turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order and confusion into clarity.”

Dr. Robert Emmons, another leading author and expert, states gratitude involves two stages. One, acknowledgement of goodness in one’s life. Second, some source of goodness outside of the self such as being grateful to other people, animals or a spiritual being.

Dr. Emmons' research found that psychologically gratitude produces myriad benefits. When frequently practiced it can: enhance well being, improve relationships, increase happiness, better physical and mental health and overall improve your life.

Studies of MRIs found feelings of gratitude increase certain areas in the brain that strengthen positive outcomes through visualizations. These studies show gratitude can reduce stress, increase coherence in heart rate, and make you more aware of little things people, especially people in your life, do for you. Gratitude tends to produce positive emotions resulting into positive social behavior.

One can incorporate gratitude into our daily lives by random acts of kindness (helping strangers with heavy packages), common courtesy and respect, telling people you appreciate them, writing a good old fashion letter thanking or recognizing them.

Especially at Christmas, gratitude can be demonstrated by making homemade gifts. For instance, frame a picture that was taken, bring over lunch or homemade cookies, make a playlist of favorite songs or give a book that has a personal message.

Make a gratitude list.

Celebrate the little things (watching wildlife, good cup of coffee, your dog playing) as well as the big things.

Adults who are grateful are healthy, have a better outlook on life, are happier more optimistic, handle stressful situations better, draw positive things to them and live longer.

Practice giving yourself the gift of gratitude this Christmas.

Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW,LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls. She can be contacted at 827-0700.