Generating Gratitude

rhn-gratitudeThis blog post was written by Leslie Kolb, MSW, ASW

With the holidays approaching, you might have plans to visit your family, or have friends over for a celebration. You might be planning a vacation, or at least planning to take time off from work for a “staycation.” You might be looking forward to the holiday season and all it has to offer. But for some of us, the holidays can dredge up feelings we don’t usually experience throughout the year and cause stress, anxiety, or sadness. So how can we maintain our gratitude and a sense of peace throughout the chaos of November and December?

What causes you to have negative feelings during the holidays? Perhaps you are struggling to make ends meet and the financial stress of the holiday season is creating extra anxiety for you this year. Or maybe you lost someone close to you this year and this will be your first holiday without that person. Whatever the reason, if you anticipate experiencing a difficult holiday season, you can find a way to keep your balance through gratitude.

Last week we discussed the importance of maintaining a regular practice of gratitude. If you anticipate that your holidays will be difficult, you might want to try increasing your practice during the season. For example, increase the number of daily items you list in your gratitude journal. Or write twice during the day instead of just once. The simple act of taking time out to do so is an act of meditation, of mindfulness, that can reduce your anxiety, slow your breathing, and re-center you. Considering that the holiday season is also flu season, the added bonus of reducing your anxiety and stressors can fortify your immune system and reduce vulnerability to illness.

But what about the days that feel as though negativity has got a vice grip on your mindset? Or when it feels like one thing after the other has gone wrong? Try reframing your experience into something for which you can feel grateful. For example, if you are struggling financially this holiday season, perhaps you and your family members can create gifts for one another without spending money. You might see that giving and receiving homemade gifts can be more fulfilling than material gifts. If you have lost someone this year and are missing them during the holidays, try reflecting on happy memories of holidays spent with that person. It may be painful, but it may also help you remember the joy of spending time with that person and feel grateful that they were in your life for as long as they were.

The beauty of reframing your experiences through a lens of gratitude is that you can identify unexpected benefits of difficult circumstances. In doing so, you might find yourself feeling grateful, peaceful, and present in the face of emotional adversity this holiday season. This week, as you make plans for Thanksgiving, consider what feelings are plaguing you, and look for the unexpected positive outcomes. Sometimes it can be difficult to find them, but they are present in almost every situation, just waiting to inspire gratitude and thankfulness.


Elana Clark-Faler
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