Maintaining a Sense of Gratitude through the Holiday Season
Amid the merriment and joy so often expressed during special and seasonal holidays, some people may experience more depression or a sense of separation and aloneness, even when in the middle of a rousing crowd. Many things can contribute to this, such as the loss of loved ones, separation, divorce, unemployment, poverty or lack of resources, poor health, estrangement from loved ones, and more. Some people are good at covering up their sense of grief during the holidays while others express it in grumpiness, aloofness, being a “Scrooge,” etc. And then there are those who genuinely love the whole experience and cannot help but express their joy and happiness.
Wherever you fall in this rainbow of experience, it is still possible to find joy and to be grateful during the holidays, no matter what kind of holiday it is. One way to do this is to realize all holidays are a means of celebrating life, in one form or another. People often become unhappy because they have developed unrealistic expectations about the holidays, i.e., not getting the presents they wanted, not being with the people they wanted to be with, not having enough money, and so forth. After all, how can you expect to be grateful if you didn’t get what you wanted, if Billy, or Joey, or Jenny got more than you, and Gerald and Reggie got the most expensive gifts of all? Where is the gratitude in that?
Finding something to be grateful for can be a challenge if we’re in a mindset that is demanding more and more and more and seeing less as a result of it. It’s a matter of perspective. Where’s your focus? Where are you placing your attention? What are your expectations of the event and are you being realistic? Can you stop long enough to find a sense of peace in the sunset or star shine, a breeze or drifting cloud? No one is ever so totally alone that they cannot be grateful for something, even if it’s just the awareness that Spirit (God/Universe) is present. We might not have a certain person in our presence, but we have the memory or the dream of them in our hearts. When we feel the loneliest is the time to reach out and help someone else who might be feeling that way, too.
You don’t have to be surrounded by close family and friends to experience the same amount of love and joy if you choose to move into a place of community. It might be as simple as working in a soup kitchen for the day, volunteering to help others through some charity, helping to create an event/meal where people can come together to celebrate, or joining in a church service or ceremony. We might not have a close physical family, but we are all part of the Family of Humanity, the Family of Creation. Looking for common bonds we share is one way to be grateful and to take your focus off what you think is missing.
So, how can you be grateful this holiday season, even if you feel a little melancholy or lost? Start by being grateful for simple things. Here are a few ideas:
- Your health – and the fact that you can heal (and learn from illness or injury if you listen to what it is telling you);
- Family and friends you do have – if they are not close by, write to them or call them; if you’re estranged, take the first step to reconciliation – what if that’s all it takes to bridge the gap?
- Pets – if you don’t have any or have lost yours, visit a pet store or shelter to experience the unconditional love of animals – you don’t have to own one to enjoy their energy;
- Food to eat – even if you don’t have the “traditional” holiday fare, celebrate and give thanks for what you do have;
- Transportation and mobility – if you can, get up and go somewhere different – get out of your rut of complacency and look at a different scene;
- Nature/wildlife – go to a park, out into the country, a nature center – watch the birds and squirrels in your own backyard – notice how they are not concerned with traditions or rules of society;
- Nature/trees/plants/flowers – depending on the time of the season, give yourself permission to just enjoy the outdoors, even if you can only look up and see the sky between rooftops – watch the clouds float by and plant a dream into their vapors to be carried into the Universe;
- Resources right where you are – look around; you probably have plenty of “things” near you right now. What can you create from them? Can you tidy up and donate some of them to charity? Can you rearrange your furniture into a better-feeling order? Can you create a feast from the items in your pantry or freezer? It doesn’t matter if they don’t “go together” – you can create a lovely meal with what you have – invite others to bring what they have and share a unique dining experience and perhaps create a new tradition;
- Movies / Music – find some old movies on television or online; pull out some old videos or even home movies or favorite music from when you were younger;
- Children / Games – give your children an afternoon of completely undivided attention from you, playing what they like to play, or teaching them some games from your own childhood; turn off the media and focus on each other (do the same with your spouse, partner, friend, parent, sibling, or other family member who means a lot to you);
- Spirit / God / Universal Source – spend some time in prayer, meditation, and contemplation of your Creative Power/Source – allow yourself to really connect and you will discover so much to be grateful for when you release expectations, conditions, and rules. Give yourself permission to just Be in the moment.
As you can see, these are just some of the things for which you can express gratitude. Don’t let a date on the calendar keep you from living your Blessed Life now. Everyone has experienced loss but everyone also has the choice to stay in grief or to seize the day before them to make the best of it and honor the memories of their loved ones (who would not want them to be sad) by claiming Happiness and choosing an Attitude of Gratitude and Unconditional Love.
In this unfolding Christmas season and approaching New Year, I wish you much Love (make it Unconditional), Joy, Peace (make it that which surpasseth understanding), Health, Happiness, and Wholeness, no matter where you are…