It has been shown that grateful people are typically happier people, and for practically all of us, feeling a sense of overall happiness and life satisfaction is something we strive for. However, some of us may have easier access to our deeper feelings of gratefulness than others. In fact, even the most naturally positive people, grateful people will likely have a season of life where they feel unhappy, frustrated, angry, unloved, or a variety of other unpleasant feelings. When these feelings take over, it is easy to get discouraged and even wallow in how miserable we are and take for granted the blessings we do have.
Thanksgiving is a time when we intentionally choose to be thankful and to focus on what we have. But if this year you are struggling, for whatever reason, consider allowing yourself to feel what you feel while still taking the time to enjoy the meaning of the holiday. Here are a few tips to getting through the holiday and connecting with a sense of gratitude throughout the year.
1. Remember that being grateful doesn't have to mean you downplay pain. Remind yourself that you can have space for your more difficult emotions and also have a thankful heart. You don't need to guilt yourself if you are not feeling "thankful enough." That can add to rather than alleviate emotional pain. Instead, be kind to yourself.
2. Practice appreciating what you may have taken for granted There is always something to be thankful for, if you look for it. It could be the sun shining, a new friend, food to eat, a house to live in, a job, etc. When we become to focused on what's missing, we can forget to celebrate what we have. "Present over perfect" is a good mantra for holidays and feeling a sense of connectedness with others. Make the time to show up, as you are. Having too high of expectations for holiday events can be a joy-killer at best and recipe for disaster at worst.
3. Keep a gratitude journal. Thanksgiving could be the time to start a new practice of a gratitude journal. Here you document things that you are thankful for each day. This keeps you intentionally looking for things you are thankful for and will help you maintain a more positive outlook.
4. Volunteer. Choose to volunteer in your community. Volunteering is mutually beneficial because you help someone else in need and you may also feel a greater sense of recognition about what you really have. Also, it helps you to realize your own value, and you will likely feel appreciated by someone else as well.
5. Make time for new and old traditions around the holidays. Old Traditions can be valuable because they keep you connected with those you love and you can feel a sense of comfort and familiarity. Stick with the traditions that bring value to you and your loved ones lives. Sometimes feeling over committed during the holidays can make these moments less meaningful. It is also helpful to create new, meaningful bonding experiences with loved ones. Focus on quality, not quantity.
6. Set aside time for prayer or meditation. Meditation and prayer helps you to become more present and intentional. It can help you feel more spiritual and connected with God or your higher power. There are numerous youtube videos as an aid to guided meditation. Also, there is no wrong or bad way to pray. (A favorite book of mine to help with this is "Help Thanks Wow" by Anne Lamott. )
An attitude of gratitude makes a difference. Take the time to determine how intentional gratitude can further develop in your life. Happy Thanksgiving!!