Life can be unpredictable and challenging, and that does not change just because it is the holiday season. In fact, sometimes, the holidays amplify the stressors and obstacles we face each day, as well as introducing new ones into the mix. These challenges can push our coping strategies to their limits and can leave us feeling anything but grateful.
So, how do we incorporate gratitude into our lives, especially when life feels hard? Really hard. I am not referring to toxic positivity disguised as gratitude or using gratitude to gaslight ourselves and trivialize our difficulties. I am referring to genuine gratitude.
Practicing genuine gratitude consistently improves our emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical health and well-being, not just at Thanksgiving, but all year round. It’s easy to feel and express gratitude when everything is going well, but it’s even more important to develop gratitude practices that can support us when we are struggling.
There are many ways to cultivate gratitude, no matter what is happening in our lives and in the world around us. We don’t need to wait for Thanksgiving to commit to a gratitude practice, we can start right now:
- Begin each day by saying thank you. As soon as we wake up, we can give thanks for another day, for our home, our family and friends, our pets, our health, our jobs, and whatever else comes to my mind in that moment. This morning ritual begins the day on a positive note, and throughout the day, we can revisit it and look for things to add to that gratitude list.
- Perform an act of kindness every day. When we’re experiencing hardships, it is easy to stay focused on ourselves and our problems. When we explore ways that we can brighten someone else’s day, we benefit as much as they do. This motivates us to be generous and kind to others, which creates a greater sense of connection with others and generates a more positive outlook on life. We experience gratitude when we show kindness to others and ourselves.
- Say thank you for the little things. When things don’t go our way, it can be extremely hard to notice things to be thankful for and to allow ourselves to feel a sense of gratitude. Yet, there are so many moments of joy and goodness in the world, even when we are laser focused on everything that is not. Being able to say thank you for the small things, such as a sincere compliment, a smile, or a gorgeous day, helps us to focus on what we have, not what we lack, and on what is going right, instead of everything that is going wrong. This shift in our focus expands our minds and supports us in finding solutions and feeling a deeper sense of gratitude.
- Allow for the duality of emotions. When we struggle, for any reason, we may experience sadness, despair, anger, regret, and so forth. These emotions may not be ones that we necessarily want to feel, but they are normal. When we allow ourselves the space and grace to process difficult emotions, while still leaving room for gratitude, we give ourselves the opportunity to grow and to heal. We don’t have to choose between gratitude and any other emotion; we can feel both concurrently.
- Keep a gratitude journal. This is one of the most popular gratitude practices, for good reason. Journaling has a variety of benefits. People who journal tend to have better quality of sleep, greater levels of resilience, and improved mood. Spend a few moments of undisturbed time to reflect on what you are grateful for and capture your thoughts in a notebook, journal, or even a scrap piece of paper. Writing organizes our thoughts, helps us to process information and experiences, and puts challenges in a healthier perspective. It also trains our minds to search for people and things to be grateful for throughout the day.
We all struggle and experience difficulties from time to time, and we can still incorporate gratitude into our lives to help us to cope. Gratitude is simple, yet so powerful. So, let us use it to make every day a day of thanksgiving.
That’s another story. . .
Categories: That's Another Story