In the golden days of autumn, the great wheel of time turns from summer to fall. For centuries, our agrarian ancestors measured time by the seasons as the agricultural year took them on a spiritual journey through the annual cycles of life. Each month brought new lessons, as alternating seasons of darkness and light prompted them to seek deeper meaning beneath the busy surface of their days.
In this season of autumn, our ancestors brought in their last harvests, put away food for the coming winter, and joined together in rituals of thanksgiving. The ritual of giving thanks for the harvest has long been celebrated in cultures around the world. The American holiday of Thanksgiving is one example, and one of the few traditions that still unites our often painfully divided country.
At a time when the US surgeon general has declared a loneliness epidemic in our country, now, more than ever we can benefit from practicing gratitude. According to psychologist Robert Emmons, PhD, practicing gratitude can help us overcome loneliness and isolation by making us feel closer and more connected to others. Beginning a new habit of practicing gratitude can restore our connection to nature and one another, and bring a deeper sense of meaning to our lives. Throughout many decades of research, Emmons has found that gratitude can help relieve depression and anxiety, improve our relationships, bring us greater joy and meaning, and restore our hope in challenging times.[i]
Today, amid the brightly colored autumn leaves, golden pumpkins, and seasonal celebrations, we can to take time from our busy lives to reflect on the gifts of the past seasons and participate in this ritual of giving thanks.
Here are some simple ways to practice gratitude:
- Begin each day with gratitude. When you wake up in the morning, think of one thing you're looking forward to that day.
- Give thanks before meals. You can do this silently or make it a practice to give thanks with family and friends as you share a meal together.
- Pause during the day to appreciate the beauty of the world around you.
- Make it a point to thank people.
- Send a gratitude letter or thank you card to someone who has helped you or brought joy into your life.
- Keep a gratitude journal—write down three things you're grateful for at the end of each day.
I wish you joy, gratitude, and peace in this golden season of autumn.
[i] Emmons, R. A. (2007). Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Emmons cites decades of research and offers a wealth of insights on the positive effects of gratitude.