Thanksgiving is coming up here in the States, and it’s natural for everyone to take stock of things they’re grateful for around this time, as well as in December, when the holidays are in full swing. While on some level, most of us are thankful for our blessings all year, making a conscious effort to practice gratitude every day can actually reduce stress and improve health. It can even improve sleep – which, as graduate students know, is often in short supply. Even at our most stressful times (like, say, when you’re past deadline for your next round of dissertation revisions), gratitude can help us focus, connect with others, and help cultivate a sense of well-being. There is always something to be thankful for, but sometimes it can be tricky to start a gratitude practice – where do you start? Isn’t it time consuming? What, exactly, is it? Is it like meditation?

Don’t fret – it can be as simple as you need it to be. Here are some suggestions for helping you develop a gratitude practice that fits your schedule and works for you.

Journal. We don’t mean a “Dear Diary” kind of journal; rather, a gratitude journal. Every day – or at least several times a week – write down 3-5 things you’re grateful for. Try to focus on non-material things, if you can.

Take a walk. This one is especially helpful if you’re having a bad day, since exercise also produces endorphins, which help boost mood. During your walk, think of reasons you’re alive today, or good things in your life. Be fully present; don’t listen to music or talk with anyone. Take deep breaths, look at your surroundings – the birds, the trees, the path you’re walking, the sky – and try to be mindful of your body as you walk.

Create a gratitude board. You’ve heard of a vision board, right? Why not make a gratitude board? You can use a corkboard, bulletin board, or even a large piece of posterboard. You can put pictures of loved ones or pets on it, words or quotes that are meaningful, and anything that you’re grateful for, on the board. If you can, hang it somewhere where you’ll see it daily.

Try to do something kind every day. It doesn’t have to be big; it can be something as simple as saying hi to a stranger, or smiling at your neighbor. Hold the door for a mom struggling with a stroller, or offer the mail person a cool drink on a hot day.

Spend time with loved ones and friends. Even if you’re busy, take an hour – schedule it if you have to – to spend focused, distraction-free time with people you care about and who bring joy to your life.

Remember how far you’ve come. Graduate school isn’t easy, and it’s not for everyone. Take a moment to appreciate that you’re on this road, you’ve come a long way, and though there’s still some road to travel, you’re making progress – and that’s what counts.

Reframe challenges or setbacks as opportunities. Research and the dissertation process aren’t easy, for sure – but everyone going through the process has experienced having to do multiple drafts, changing parts of their research, redoing data analysis, reframing their theoretical model, or some combination of revisions. It’s challenging and can be frustrating, but it’s necessary; why not look at it as an opportunity to learn something new, instead? Or look at it like this will get you a little bit closer toward your end goal.


Dissertation Editor has been there – literally. Everyone, from the project managers to the editors and methodologists, to the CEO, has gone through the thesis and/or dissertation process. We know what it’s like to be mired in rewrites or research, or face a seemingly impenetrable data set – but we survived, and you can, too. If you’re just starting the dissertation process or almost at the end, we can help. If you’ve finished the dissertation process, why not let us help you turn it into a book? No matter what your needs, Dissertation Editor can help you reach your end goal. Contact us today to learn more!

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