Thanksgiving is just a few days away. It’s the holiday for taking time to appreciate each other. To count your blessings. To be thankful.
According to research, gratitude is a powerful thing. Those who truly feel it have more friends. They’re healthier, happier, less aggressive, and more mentally resilient. And just overall, they feel better about themselves. Grateful people even sleep better!
But many people I know say that they don’t really feel grateful or thankful during this time of year… at least when they’re willing to be honest about it. They know they’re supposed to, but the feeling just isn’t there.
I’ve certainly had this problem myself from time to time. But why? What is stopping us from feeling gratitude for everything that we have?
Stress. Holidays are supposed to be occasions that reduce stress. You get time off of work. You get to sit around doing nothing with family members. You get to eat all kinds of delicious foods.
But what if you’re worried about getting work done to enjoy your time off? What if spending time with your family (especially your extended family) is something you find difficult? What if you can’t enjoy all those delicious foods because you’re thinking about how many hours you’ll need to work out to cancel out the calories?
It’s pretty hard to feel thankful or grateful when you’re stressed.
Responsibilities. Are you planning holiday meals? Getting gifts? Having people stay over? Planning a trip?
For many people, there’s so much going on during the holiday season that there’s just no time to enjoy it. How can you really be grateful for that?
Sometimes even supposedly fun holiday parties end up feeling like one more thing to check off of an ever-growing to-do list. You don’t have holiday fun; you have holiday responsibilities.
Distractions. Partially because of the above issues, many of us just want to collapse at the end of the day and veg out in front of the TV. Or our smartphones. Or a video game system. Even a good book.
This is understandable. And you should absolutely take time out for yourself this holiday season. Unfortunately, these distractions can be so seductive that we end up retreating into them and ignoring the people we love.
So what can you do to be more grateful?
It starts with sitting down and figuring out your values. What do you really care about? How would you spend your holiday season if there were no outside influences?
Once you’ve acknowledged those values, do your best to base your plans around them. For example, if you want to stay connected with friends and colleagues, prioritize those parties. However, if your main holiday goal is to get quality family time, be okay with saying no to those types of events.
Whatever you decide, create a schedule based on how you want to spend your time and do your best to stick to it. Didn’t cook as many side dishes this year as you would have liked? That’s okay. Struggling to find the perfect gifts? Be all right with imperfection. You’ll be far better able to feel the gratitude you want if you aren’t stressed over doing everything that needs to be done.
Something else that helps? Gratitude practice. It sounds strange, I know – but trust me when I say it works.
Set aside time each day to reflect on the good things in your life. It doesn’t have to be long – even a minute is probably fine. But don’t stop there. Say one thing you’re grateful for out loud every day. Encourage your spouse and childten to do it as well!
Actively thinking about the good things in your life and talking about them puts you in a grateful mindset. Before long, you’ll notice a more positive, appreciative outlook – even when you’re not trying to have one. And this will help you to build a happier marriage and a stronger family.
Now that’s something to feel grateful for!
Rooting for you,