H0N9VC26H9Thanksgiving weekend is upon us and it’s my very favourite holiday! I love everything about Thanksgiving – the delicious food enjoyed with family, the crisp autumn weather and of course the act of consciously giving thanks for abundance.

But giving thanks isn’t just a great excuse for a big family dinner. The thankful appreciation of the goodness in our lives, whether tangible or intangible, can have a positive effect on our health and wellness. Studies have shown that gratitude can improve our mental and emotional health by increasing happiness and optimism, and can strengthen our relationships with family, friends and coworkers. There are physical benefits to gratitude as well, stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure and improved sleep.

Given that gratitude has such as positive impact on our health, why we do we limit the giving of thanks to just one day of the year? Cultivating a regular gratitude practice doesn’t need to take a lot of time or effort. Here are a few ideas to help you cultivate a regular practice of gratitude:

Keep a gratitude journal

Jotting down what you are thankful on a regular basis, whether it’s daily, weekly or on another schedule that suites you best, brings us into the present moment and helps us to recognize that no matter where we might want to be in the future, there is goodness in our lives today. Going back to read through what you have recorded in your journal is also a great way to boost your mood!

Write a thank you note

Unless you are a hermit who lives off the grid in the middle of nowhere there is likely at least one person in your life that deserves a thank you. Don’t keep that gratitude to yourself! Take a few minutes to write a hand-written thank you note to anyone that deserves it – from the barista that gets your complicated coffee order just right each morning to a coworker who went out of his or her way on a recent project. Let them know what you are thankful for and what their generosity means to you.

Count your blessings

If nothing else, taking a minute out of your day – literally 60 seconds – to count your blessings can still boost your mood and help you cultivate gratitude. Make a quick list in your head of all the good things in your life you are thankful for. Try it out when you’re brushing your teeth, commuting or waiting for an elevator. Sometimes before I go to sleep I like to associate something I am grateful for with each letter of the alphabet! For example apple picking, my smiling baby, chamomile tea, etc.

This year I have more to be grateful for than ever before – my new little family and our sweet baby girl! I am also incredibly thankful for the family members and friends that have helped us adjust to life with a newborn and to our midwives, doctors and nurses that took care of Maisie and me during and after our birth experience.

Happy thanksgiving to you and your families! What are you giving thanks for this year?