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Better Moods with Gratitude & Thanksgiving

I recently learned that it’s “NOvember” — which means you can say NO to more things to prioritize your well-being. Go ahead and give yourself that permission in these final days of the month, and beyond! It’s not easy, but it will be with practice, which will be a helpful skill as we head into the holidays.

Another helpful practice is gratitude. Expressing gratitude is remarkable as it benefits both the giver and the receiver. Why? When we express or receive gratitude, our brains release dopamine and serotonin which make us feel good! It will give us an immediate mood boost. Plenty of studies have shown that people who regularly express gratitude are happier, more hopeful and are generally healthier in body and mind.

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday that is celebrated by all, no matter their religion or heritage. That in itself is something to be grateful for! It’s an opportunity for families to be together, with less stress this year given booster shots already administered to grandparents and many 5-11 year-olds having their first shots just these last couple of weeks (grateful for these boosters!).

Wondering how to incorporate gratitude into your family life? Many families have a Thanksgiving tradition to go around the table and say what they are thankful for. Continue that tradition even after the leftovers are gone. By giving each family member a chance to reflect on their day and share something that they are grateful for, you will all benefit from its feel-good mood boost. It can take a bit of practice to slow down and reflect on our days, but it’s worth it. My kids have amazed me with their reflections and gratefulness — I would have never known without this practice.

Another fun idea is a gratitude pumpkin. You can use a real one like we did in the photo, or a craft pumpkin. There is no right way to do it — just grab a sharpie and have everyone share a few things for which they are grateful. My kids added some unexpected thoughtful ones, like “a safe community” and “freedom of speech” this year. Me? I kicked off my grateful list with “coffee.” ❤️

About the Author

Vanessa Elias is a mental health activist, certified parent coach, speaker, and writer featured on NPR, PBS, and in the WSJ. She is the founder of Thrive with a Guide, LLC and serves as a group facilitator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Block Party USA is her passion project. Vanessa helps parents achieve healthier family relationships and lasting, meaningful connections.


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