December is a month full of extremes.  Excitement, overwhelm, joy, to-do lists, concerts, sleeplessness, surprises, routine, indulgence and going without.

What can we do to fuel our soul tank during this beautiful and busy month?  What about thinking of three things you are grateful for at the end of the day during a daily task that happens anyway, like brushing your teeth?  It can be thoughts of a family member, someone treating you to a coffee, a positive comment from your colleague, a delicious cookie you savoured, getting that coveted parking spot close to the door or anything in between.  A 2005 study by Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania found that writing about three things that you are grateful for each day for one week increased happiness for six months afterwards.  What a simple thing to do for self-care and mental wellness.

Another study done by Seligman found that if you actually write and send a hard copy letter to someone and thank them for something they did for you, you will have an increased feeling of happiness for one month.  You can mail the letter but those who delivered it personally had the greatest increase in happiness.  You could write to a teacher, a neighbour, a friend, a parent, a grandparent, a sibling or a colleague.  The list is endless.  How epic might it feel for someone to receive a letter like that?  And how incredible to be the one who sent it?

Other studies have shown that gratitude lowers levels of stress, depression and sleeplessness.  Roman philosopher Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”

It creates a foundation of peace.  A venue where anger and fear cannot thrive.  A lens through which we can see that everyone has a story.  Everyone has troubles.  Everyone is going through something we know nothing about.

As we bake and decorate and shop and visit, let us remember to pause and be grateful for everything we have.  A gift wrapped with a bow will never be more valuable than the people and experiences that have made us who we are.