As we continue to move toward the holiday Christmas season at what seems to be lightning speed, I’m reminded of the importance of gratitude. Everyone is so busy doing, buying, visiting, stressing, that it’s easy to forget to be grateful for the small every day things. We all know and hear about how important it is to make time for family and friends if we are in a position to do so during this holiday season, but what about being grateful for so many of the other blessings we all have?
I’m talking about being grateful for the beauty of nature that surrounds us, the snow frosting trees and ground, the brilliance of sunshine, the abundance of love in our lives, the food we eat, the safety and warmth of our homes, and so on. Perhaps even more important is when we’re struggling with the things we don’t have at Christmas; family who live far away, loss of someone close to us, a lack of social and familial support, job losses, not enough money, and so on.
Well known speaker and vulnerability expert, Brené Brown talks about how gratitude is more than just an attitude. It’s something we can actively choose to cultivate and bring into our lives. It’s helpful to remind ourselves that being grateful for what we have encourages positive thinking. It gives us hope that tomorrow will be easier, and that even just having air to breathe into our lungs is something to be grateful for. I keep hearing how this particular season can be one of the most difficult and stressful for many people. That saddens me, because it means that too many people still don’t get it. I’m not a professional in the mental health area, and I don’t mean to make light of people who struggle with clinical depression or suicidal ideation, so please don’t take me wrong. I just can’t help but think that at least some of it means these people can’t see beyond today. It means they’ve stopped looking at the beauty of the world that surrounds them, have stopped focusing on what they do have, and have turned their eyes inward and found a dark, black space. No wonder they’re despairing. If I could wish for one thing this Christmas, it would be that every person could look around them and be grateful for the beauty of nature and life and hold it close, even just for a moment. It doesn’t make everything right, but maybe it would make the next moment a little more bearable. Again, this is perhaps just my simplistic view of the world.
But again, cultivating gratitude means more than just saying the words, it means really feeling it. It means taking time to think about what bounties we have and truly being grateful for them. It means looking around ourselves and within our own bodies and being grateful for the smallest blessings, and the big ones. It means taking the time to really think about what you have to be grateful for, then saying aloud, “I am grateful for…”, and holding that thought for a moment before continuing on with your day, your meal, whatever.
No matter what’s happening in your life this holiday season, try to take a moment or two, or as many as you like, and think about the things you are grateful for. Speak them, count them, re-visit them as often as you need to, and hold them close whenever stress, anger, despair, or fear begin to crowd your world. And breathe. And smile. And dream. Even when you don’t want to.
However you celebrate this season, may you find some measure of joy and gratitude!