Some people enjoy a trip to the shops to snag a bargain, others prefer to attend a major sporting event, for some of us the festivities of Christmas day continue and for others it’s a complete day of rest spent indulging in yummy leftovers and binging on Netflix.
But did you know that when Boxing Day originated some 287 years ago it was a day spent giving to others? The specific roots of the holiday name are unknown but many theories exist to this day. Given it’s a day celebrated by Commonwealth countries it would be fair to say that the term Boxing Day derives from the British name for a Christmas gift known as a “Christmas Box”. It was thought that lords and aristocrats filled boxes with money, gifts and leftovers for staff/servants who would be given the day off and take home gifts to their families. In essence, it was a holiday bonus of sorts.
It is widely believed that the day also refers to the act of collecting money during the advent season where boxes were placed in churches, with the donations counted and distributed to the poor on Boxing Day. It’s likely not a coincidence either that Ireland celebrates Boxing Day as St Stephen’s Day – which recognises Saint Stephen - the first Christian martyr known for acts of charity.
Whatever the real reason is, all theories point to the day being celebrated for finding ways to give thanks and show gratitude. And when you take into account that studies prove that people who are grateful are happier, sleep better and even live longer, there’s literally nothing about expressing gratitude to moan about.
Neuroscience research around gratitude proves that our mental health significantly improves as we learn to consistently be grateful. Gratefulness causes our brains to release more positive neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin and lessens the presence of the stress hormone, cortisol. This can help with depression and anxiety, as well as conditions like insomnia.
Simply put, it’s quite difficult to feel depressed or sorry for yourself when you make a concerted effort to feel grateful instead.
Keeping a gratitude journal has been touted as one of the most effective ways to make gratitude part of your everyday life and showed that people who do so exercised more, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives on a whole and were more optimistic. It also showed that people who kept a journal were more likely to make progress toward achieving their goals.
However if keeping a journal is not your thing, there are plenty of other ways you can work giving gratitude into your life.
1. Tell someone you love them and how much you appreciate them.
2. Notice the beauty in your surroundings.
3. Smile often.
4. Nurture friendships
5. Volunteer your time.
6. Compliment your friends, family or coworkers.
7. Commit to one day a week where you won’t complain
8. Share what you are grateful for at meal times.
9. At the end of each day, say aloud three good things that happened.
10. If you notice feeling happy, stop what you are doing and pay attention for a few minutes.
If you practice these tips and still find yourself in a negative thought process it may be time for you to address the underlying cause and consult your GP for help and guidance. If you are suffering from severe depression or anxiety St John of God Health Care’s Pinelodge Clinic has inpatient and outpatient resources that might be of benefit to you. For more information call, 03 8793 9333 or visit our website at sjog.org.au. There is also a Facebook page that you can join to keep up to date with mental health topics and services.