Cultivating Gratitude

Thanksgiving is all about gratitude but sometimes it can be hard to find things we are grateful for when we are fogged with grief, loss, depression, trauma, or family dysfunction. As the holidays are approaching, what comes to your mind when you think about thanksgiving? Do you have a traditional large family dinner with a juicy turkey and mashed potatoes where everyone gets along or do you find yourself craving a drink just to make it through? Are the holidays anxiety provoking with rumination on how to make things run smoothly or how to avoid certain people or do you find yourself getting sad due to the anniversary of the death of a loved one? Do you feel like you may have nothing to be thankful for or have no one to spend the holiday with? Sometimes that is the reality for some of us, which makes the holiday season not one to look forward to as much. However, there are ways to recreate Thanksgiving as a positive rather than negative experience.

It can be extremely tough to feel alone during the holidays, especially since it just seems like everyone else around you is happy with their family and loved ones. It’s easier to simply isolate and withdraw from the world during this time of year. However, in doing so, you don’t give yourself the opportunity for positive experiences to even occur. If this speaks to you, how about we try something new this year!

1. Have a friends-giving! Sometimes, family is an estranged concept due to loss or sometimes, we live too far away from family members and just don’t have the ability or financial means to travel. Whatever the case may be, family doesn’t have to mean blood. Friends are our chosen family! Get together with a friend or a bunch of friends for a potluck to celebrate your appreciation for each other.

2. Volunteer! If you are on your own, you may spend thanksgiving by giving back to the community. This could give you a sense of purpose and even make you feel good about yourself through engaging in common humanity. Helping out others who may also feel like they are alone can shed some light into an otherwise dark time. Make care packages for the homeless, pass out positive affirmations to strangers, or volunteer at a homeless shelter.

3. Make a gratitude list! Even when you may feel like you have nothing to be thankful for, you are alive and breathing. It can be hard to think of positive things we are grateful for when wearing dark shaded glasses that turn our worldview from positive to negative. Therefore, I challenge you to make a list of absolutely everything and anything that you are grateful for. Having a home, friends, family, job, ability to walk, see, hear, or talk, education, ability to travel, pets, the earth, etc. Keep that list with you at all times so that when you do find yourself having the holiday blues, you can remind yourself of the things that bring you joy.

4. Change your perspective! If you’re one that dreads that family get together because there’s the one aunt that picks a fight or nobody ever seems to get along, you can still make it an enjoyable evening or holiday season for yourself. We cannot control what anybody else does, says, or thinks but we can control our reaction to it. We can make light of an otherwise aversive situation just by changing our perspective. If your family doesn’t get along with each other, you can still get along with each one individually. If we have negative expectations we will be more inclined toward seeking evidence that supports it rather than the positives that contradict it. Therefore, try your best to think of all the positives that are occurring in the moment and embrace them.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

If the holidays are a particularly hard time and you are struggling to find things to be grateful for, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Orlando mental health counselors. We are here to support and help you through the seasons and beyond.


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