Giving Thanks: Gratitude, Wellness & Community
Learn more about the many ways, big or small to give thanks and give back as a community this holiday season.
During this festive time of year, we normally reflect back on the past year and give thanks. 2020 has been a year for the history books with a pandemic continuing, wild fires, and more. To say this has been a stressful year is an understatement. It is more important that ever to find moments of joy and gratitude in our lives and as a community. As we head into the Thanksgiving and holiday season, we hope this blog provides some tools to inspire wellness through seeking gratitude and joy. Take a moment, take a breath, connect with others, and read on to learn more about the many ways, big or small to give thanks and give back as a community. We are thankful to you Palo Alto!
Giving Thanks By Giving Back
Connecting to your community is a great way to cultivate your gratitude practice, build positive emotions, and give back. Here are a few ways you can engage in the community this holiday season.
- Volunteer or donate to LifeMoves. LifeMoves and Downtown Streets Team is hosting a Palo Alto Community Thanksgiving Meal on Thursday 11/25 and Friday 11/26. Last minute volunteers may be needed on Thursday and Friday, for more information email PaloAltoThanksgiving@gmail.com.
- Become an ambassador for fun and volunteer for shifts to help Palo Alto’s Magical Bridge playground open safely for all. Learn more and sign up here.
- Avenidas assists seniors in the greater Palo Alto area. Contact Jyllian Halliburton, Volunteer Coordinator (email@example.com) to find out if they need help delivering services door-to-door this holiday season.
- City of Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services is actively recruiting for emergency volunteers to help during our current public emergency and more. To get involved visit here or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Donate through Project Pledge to support Palo Alto residents in need with one-time utilities bill assistance.
- Support food delivery for families in need this holiday season. Sign up for a shift at Second Harvest Food Bank or contact site managers directly. For Anthony Dorsa Elementary contact Luz email@example.com; for St. Maria Goretti Church contact Tracy firstname.lastname@example.org.
- A non-denominational, non-profit organization, the Christmas Bureau of Palo Alto celebrates over 60 years of channeling donations from those who wish to give to those less fortunate in the Palo Alto. Go here for more.
- Donating to the Palo Alto Community Foundation will help feed families, fund childcare, offer housing support and maintain local essential programs serving the most vulnerable in our Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park communities. Go here for more.
NEW: City of Palo Alto will be offering a contactless drive through toy donation to help serve kids in need from our location community. If you would like to donate a toy, we will be accepting new, unwrapped toys on Saturday, December 12 and Sunday, December 13 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and Tuesday, December 15 and Wednesday, December 16 from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Drop off will be held in the Mitchell Park Community Center parking lot at 3700 Middlefield Road.
Larger scale gratitude projects are a great way to get connected to a larger community.
- Write letters or send messages to essential workers with Project Gratitude.
- Support military and first responders with letters and care packages with Operation Gratitude.
Share your favorite ways to give back to the community! Connect with us on Instagram and tag us with #PaloAltoProud
Practicing Gratitude & Giving Thanks
Research shows that giving thanks can make you happier! Harvard Health writes that — -
“Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”
Saying thank you to the people around you, such as your employees or your loved ones, shows appreciation and spreads joy.
Harvard Health cites some easy ways you can cultivate gratitude every day:*
- Write a thank-you note. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself!
- Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day. Check out this Online Gratitude Journal project to get started.
- Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
- Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
- Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.). Check out this Headspace blog about gratitude with more videos and meditations to guide your practice.
*Tips taken from the article “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier” from Harvard Health Publishing.
We hope you feel some inspiration this season, be well and stay safe this holiday season!
Gratitude, Positive Emotions and Health
Gratitude leads to positive emotions which leads to positive health outcomes. Studies have shown that people who recognize their emotions more freely are happier, and positive emotions lead to better life outcomes. Positive emotions help us build our resiliency, outlook on life, and reduce chronic stress. Joy that people experience from expressing gratitude can have a powerful impact on emotional wellbeing.
What are you reading that’s tied to gratitude? Go here to the library’s reading list to find more resources for ways to explore and deepen feelings of gratitude.
Read more about how to cultivate positive emotions here.
More Online Resources
Check out this podcast interview on gratitude, vulnerability and courage with Brene Brown from the Good Life Project.
Listen to more about gratitude on this On Being episode with Brother David Steindl-Rast.
Check out this “sanity break” video from Ten Percent Happier on generosity and gratitude.
Looking to incorporate movement in your gratitude practice? Check out 7 days of Gratitude