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November's My Mighty Month Challenge Is Practicing Gratitude

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Every year at the beginning of Thanksgiving dinner, my mother makes everyone in attendance say what they are thankful for. As we go around the table, I’m often surprised by what people are thankful for and how, given the time to think about it (we all come prepared now), everyone has a decent amount to share. My sister says her usual, “I’m thankful for everyone and everything,” a once innocent answer from when she was a kid that’s since become a running joke, and, I, well, I usually struggle to make my list.

It’s not that I don’t have things to be thankful for, I do. It’s just that it’s easier, especially at times when my health is poor, to focus on all the things in my life I’d rather not have — as opposed to being thankful for what I do have.

While it can be tough during low periods to think about what you are thankful for, studies show there are physical and mental health benefits that come with practicing gratitude. Some of these benefits include decreased anxiety, improved sleep, reduced depression, stress relief and help fighting illness.

The good news is, practicing gratitude is fairly simple and doesn’t require too much time. According to the American Psychiatric Association, positive benefits can be found just from writing. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology asked people to keep a weekly gratitude journal for nine weeks. Those who kept the journal reported an increased sense well-being, better health, increased exercise, a better outlook on life as well as feeling more optimistic.

Of course, you are welcome to practice gratitude whichever way works best for you — journaling, list-making or writing thank-you notes. Even prayer can help cultivate gratitude.

For this month’s challenge, we’re asking you to write down at least three things per day that you are grateful for. You can dedicate a notebook to your thoughts or simply jot down your answers in your phone’s notetaking app. If you are having a hard time coming up with ideas, you can sign up for our challenge newsletter to receive guided prompts.

If you want to step up this month’s challenge, you can also schedule time for a gratitude visit. Gratitude visits are a social exercise where you write a letter to someone you are grateful for but haven’t expressed that gratitude to. The key to this exercise is writing a one- to two-page letter expressing your gratitude in detail, outlining specific situations and the effect that person has had on you — really detailing your gratitude to them. Then, after you’ve written the letter, you read it to them and have a conversation about it.

Want to make November a Mighty Month? Join us on Facebook at My Mighty Month, and don’t forget to tag any social media posts with #MyMightyMonth. You can also sign up for our weekly email, (select “Mighty Monthly Challenges” from the newsletter options), which includes tips and reminders designed to keep you motivated.

Originally published: November 1, 2017
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