Around the holidays I’m always reminded of how important gratitude is but this year being thankful seems more important than ever.
As a society we have been surrounded by fear and worry and panic for the better part of a year and a half now. We’ve become accustomed to hearing negative information from every news source and information platform. Mental health issues are at an all-time high. People have lost loved ones and a sense of connection to their communities. Finances are strained and the economy is uncertain.
There’s a lot to be sad about and worried about.
Sadness and worry hit close to home for me as well lately. A few months ago, I got in a car accident with one of my children in the car when a driver ran a red light and hit us at speed as we went through an intersection. Less than 3 weeks later, my Mom died after a multi-year battle with cancer. The holidays could be a really hard time for me right now. But instead of dwelling on the incredibly difficult part of my life that just happened, I’m focusing on the good.
I’m thankful for the supportive community of friends and family that surrounded me with love after my mother’s passing. I’m thankful for the holiday get togethers that have finally returned. I’m thankful for being included in my children’s school happenings once again. I’m thankful for the holiday traditions I can continue and the new ones I’m making with my family. And I’m thankful for our Savior’s birth and death on my behalf.
Every day, no matter how hard it is, I’m choosing to practice gratitude. Here are my tips for focusing on thankfulness:
- Start the Day Off Right – I always try to think of one thing I’m thankful for before I put my feet on the ground every morning. It kicks off the day with some gratitude to build on. That’s a pretty minimal version of trying to start the day strong, but it’s what I can commit to personally. You could also set aside time in the morning to pray or meditate or read to get started in the morning.
- Don’t Conflate Thankfulness and Happiness – You can be brimming with gratitude and still be sad. You don’t even need a reason to be sad. Sadness is inevitable from time to time, and it’s okay. Let yourself be sad when you need to be, but don’t lose sight of everything you can be thankful for in your day-to-day life. And don’t assume that happy people are automatically thankful. These are very separate concepts.
- Look for the Good – When things are difficult, consciously stop and try to focus on the things you can be thankful for. Don’t go down the rabbit hole of getting stuck in the murk of rough stuff.
- Share Your Thankfulness – Not on social media – in real, in-person interactions. Show the people around you what it looks, and sounds like to model thankfulness, even in the mundane. Encourage them to do the same. Teach and mentor others to strengthen your own gratitude practices.
- Befriend Thankful People – There’s truth in the idea that you are who you surround yourself with. It’s hard to be on an island of gratitude. Find grateful people to encourage you as you go through life. In my experience, these are typically older people like grandparents (yours or someone else’s) and religious leaders that have the wisdom to understand how fortunate they are even if there are other people who have more than they do.
- Show Yourself Grace – It’s impossible to be thankful all the time. You’ll slip up and get grumpy or greedy or take for granted the good that’s around you. Don’t judge yourself too harshly for this. There’s always tomorrow! (Please note, I’m including this as a reminder for myself as well!)
- Take Care of Yourself – It may sound corny, but you need to prioritize taking care of yourself for any of this to work. It’s really hard to be thankful when your physical and emotional needs aren’t being met. Get enough sleep, drink enough water, stay active, set your world up in a way that’s functional, and find things that are mentally fulfilling to enrich your life. These pillars are going to be your foundation of gratitude.
Hopefully you find something in there that can help you embrace an attitude of thankfulness. If you have your own gratitude tips, feel free to share them with me below.
Happy New Year!