As you approach the holidays, are you able to pause frequently and give thanks for small miracles all around you? Or, are you obsessed with the pressure and stress of the holidays that you feel more like a person doing than a human being? Do you dread being with particular dysfunctional relatives over the holidays, and do you allow those feelings to overshadow your plans for party?
If stress, anxiety, and stress interfere with your feelings of gratitude, the holidays provide many chances to practice gratitude for the gifts of the current moment. Mindfulness practice can help us to know about our “treasures,” and get ready for the holidays while maintaining a conscious intention to practice giving and gratitude. Rather than falling into the routine of visiting the holidays as a time of anxiety, grab this time of year to create positive changes in your life that is only going to bring you more pleasure throughout the season and in the new year.
Consciously choose to rewrite your ideas and train your mind so you can appreciate and celebrate with gratitude, daily. Robert Emmons is a an expert scientist that studies gratitude. His study is one example of a multitude of evidence demonstrating the benefits of being fully aware of our treasures by practicing gratitude.
It is great for the entire family also. Studies have shown that when kids, preteens, and teenagers practice gratitude they have more positive emotions and feel more connected to other people. During the holidays, lots of people in my personal practice experience a feeling of fear about family gatherings. One young wife named Hillary clarified how the constant bickering of her in-laws overshadowed her gratitude and celebration throughout previous family gatherings.
We made a plan for how she could use mindfulness to focus on gratitude for the blessings around her season. She made a habit of writing the word “NOW” as a reminder to change her attention away from bickering and back toward the treasures of the current moment. Hillary put an intention to detect sights, scents, and textures all around her that she had been thankful for. She noticed the sight of fall flowers, the smell of cinnamon, the feel of her child’s hand in hers. Hillary set a goal to search for opportunities for gratitude.
She intentionally intended to repeat to herself frequently, I thank God for pleasure and love and miracles. Hillary realized that she was allowing her in-laws’ behaviour to overrule her inner peace, so we decided she would take some time for walks, focus on her breathing, and attend to her internal well-being. She practiced dropping in herself to concentrate on breathing and believing the word “be” on the in breath and”calm” on the out breath to help her stay centered.
What to do?
So how do you increase your focus on gratitude in this holiday season? Avoid being judgmental toward others and yourself. Most of us have our struggles, but start to train your mind to observe the struggles and proceed back towards gratitude. Ask your kids to tell you three good things that happened throughout the day, or begin a ritual with your partner before going to bed, of telling each other at least one thing that you appreciated about them throughout the day.
Imagine your life without your partner as a means to concentrate on the blessings of the existence. Keep a gratitude journal. The holidays are a wonderful time to start a journal. Mindfulness and gratitude are a clinic, and they require some work, so expect setbacks. When caught up in the stress and demands of the holidays, you will end up needing to consciously bring your thoughts back to gratitude. Use the setbacks as opportunities to see the ways that you wear yourself down with negativity and remind yourself of the positive.