November opens the holiday season and with it, many mixed feelings and emotions. Cute pictures from Halloween of costumed pets and kids still fill newsfeeds as daily posts of thanksgiving start to roll in. It can seem like everyone around us is ushering in the season with delight as fall fills the air. However, it is important to remember that it is common for this season to exacerbate negative feelings and emotions. Taking the holidays one at a time, keeping things simple, and focusing on the meaning behind all the traditions can help relieve pressure while revealing paths for celebration in all of our unique lives.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time for the practice of gratitude. Gratitude is a powerful year-round tool that can make all the difference in how we cope and deal with our individual challenges. Gratitude takes the focus from what the negatives are in our lives to what the positives are, increasing our ability to face life’s hardships. However, it doesn’t always come intuitively and it’s something most of us have to be mindfully doing.
For me, the practice of gratitude includes personal validation of all my circumstances, the good and the bad. In the middle of a hardship, I acknowledge what that feels like and then turn my thoughts to anything that is helping me or that I can feel grateful for in the moment. Has someone been there for me to provide comfort or advice? Is there something I was able to find joy in? What needs are being met?
If I struggle with these questions, I turn to my immediate physical sensations to get my list started. I focus on the feeling of a soft pair of socks, the warmth of the sun, the feeling of a cool breeze, and so on—anything I can identify to at least get me started. From there, I list each new thing that comes to my mind. No matter how bad things are, the list of things that I am grateful for just keeps growing!
The practice of gratitude acknowledges our challenges and feelings, while at the same time, it recognizes our ability to focus on what brings us feelings of happiness and joy. It enables us to experience positive feelings despite our often-challenging circumstances. It reminds us that no matter what, there is always something to be grateful for.