Research shows that feelings of gratitude are associated with better health, sounder sleep, greater happiness, and kinder actions toward others. Holiday gatherings are the perfect opportunity to practice and cultivate these feelings. When you gather with your close friends and/or family, it is a chance to connect to the people that influence your life. Even though you can’t control everything that happens to you during the holidays, you can control the way you choose to see it. Really focus in on the positive aspects instead of dwelling on resentments or things that annoy you. Practicing this improves your experience and state of mind throughout the holidays.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Let’s face it, remembering to be grateful is not always easy, especially at this time of year. A really helpful exercise is keeping a daily gratitude journal in which you write a list of 3-10 things, no matter how small, for which you are grateful. Incorporate this practice into your routine and see how it effects you. This exercise has been shown to reduce burnout, improve resilience, sleep quality, work-life balance, and even depression.
You can strive to be grateful, but you can’t force it. You don’t want to write things just to get your journaling over with. The most important thing is that you really feel the gratitude inside. Be really genuine about your feelings. Remember that you don’t have to share this list with anyone if you don’t want to. If you can’t think of anything right away, take a moment out of your day to sit down, relax, and reflect on what things in your life you are grateful for. If all you can think of is your resentments, you can be grateful to yourself for being strong enough to face these difficult feelings so you can start to work through them. What matters is your intention to become more genuinely positive. You can find more tips on Gratitude journal at the Tiny Buddha blog.
Rethink Your Gift-Giving (and Getting) Strategy
Consumerism during the holiday season puts a big damper on gratitude. The custom of giving gifts to show appreciation to our loved ones can get us bogged down in materialism, which is pretty much the opposite of gratitude! Remember that few families can live up to the lavish celebrations idealized in the media. The true purpose of these holidays is to practice good will. Gifts that are experiences rather than “stuff” can help harbor feelings of gratitude and togetherness, rather than competition. Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University discusses research that shows that experiential gifts give much greater satisfaction than material ones. They give us a great memory that enriches our life and strengthens our relationships.
If you get a gift you don’t like, don’t be upset. Appreciate that someone has thought of you and given you something. That is truly special! Say thank you or write a thank you note. Being grateful itself will make you feel good. If there is something you would particularly like from someone, consider letting them know in either subtle, or direct ways. They may not know what you want or need from them unless you clue them in. If someone is particularly bad at picking gifts for you, try giving them a list of things you like to help them and help yourself.
Show Yourself Love And Gratefulness
Some people are very prone to resentment during the holidays. If this is you, then make sure you take some time for self-care. Take the pressure off your loved ones and friends and take some steps to love and support yourself. Log off the computer for a while, unplug and appreciate a warm drink with friends or take in a new movie or holiday classic. Pick up some extra bubble bath for yourself or go for a run in the crisp winter air. If you decide to start a gratitude journal, read over older entries to remind yourself all you have to be grateful for instead of focusing too long on new challenges.
Enjoy the blessing that you already have this holiday season. Allow the healing feeling of gratitude to wash over you, nurture you and your loved ones, and renew you for the new year. Watch an uplifting video to help you get inspired to have a better attitude (try this TED talk). Don’t let yourself get caught up in pettiness or materialism this year, and if you feel the negative beginning, refocus your energies to something more positive.
Brouhard, Karen. “Cultivating Gratitude During the Holidays.” Scientific American 79.26 (1898): 402-03. BU University. 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.
Schwartzberg, Louie. “Gratitude.” YouTube. TEDxSF, 11 June 2011. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.
Selig, Meg. “Turn Holiday Resentment into Gratitude! 11 Simple Strategies.” Psychology Today. N.p., 26 Nov. 2014. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.