December is a period of tumultuousness, both within nature and within ourselves. The trees are finally submitting to winter as neighborhoods complete the transition between life and death, bright leaves giving way to bare limbs and frosty mornings, and we are assaulted with stress: the stress of hosting dinners, or traveling to visit relatives; the stress of keeping your composure around those family members that seem to thrive on negativity — even the stress of the holidays looming so close around the corner as every store begins to blast themed music.
It can be extremely easy to lose yourself in such a time, embracing your discomfort or dislike rather than the important reminder in the very name of the upcoming holiday: to give thanks. That is precisely why it is more important than ever that you maintain a grateful attitude as it approaches and passes; you’ll find yourself feeling happier, healthier, and more satisfied as the snow begins to fall. Whether you’re traveling down the street, across the country, or are hosting the Holiday feast yourself, here are three ways to maintain gratitude.
Keep A Gratitude Journal
How often do you consider the beauty of snow rather than how cold it is or the fact that you have a family to celebrate with, no matter how much they may drive you up the wall? Ignoring your own fortune — regardless of how insignificant it may seem in the moment — is the fastest way to misery.
If you find yourself struggling with the mental act of cataloging what you’re thankful for, make it physical instead: purchase a gratitude journal and write in it every day. Remember how lucky you were to see that puppy on your way to work, or how beautiful the clouds looked as the sun set behind them on your way home. Every moment has meaning once you train your mind to understand it, and a gratitude journal is the best way to start.
Express Gratitude Through Social Media
Too often has social media been used to tear others down as ungrateful people use the power of language for cruelty and debasement rather than to further positivity and show kindness. The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to put some Good into the world for a change, and even has a contagion-like effect: if you notice a friend or family member posting negative or unhappy things, remind them of a sweet and pleasant memory the two of you shared and encourage them to expound on it. Breaking the habit of ungratefulness takes hard work, but just as misery loves company, so too does positivity.
Remember What You Love About Those Negative Family Members
No family is perfect; we all have flaws, from stubbornness to insecurity and everything in between. While the holidays may not be nonstop enjoyable and ideal, they are almost never wholly awful. When dealing with those family members that cause friction, either for the entire group or just for you, try to look beyond their actions and remember the good moments you have shared. Just like the social media expressions of gratitude, try to inspire them to join along in the “remember when” experience; if the issues are long-standing and voicing positive memories seems impossible, just hold them in your mind — maybe even jot them down in your gratitude journal later that evening. Expressing gratitude even for those individuals that cause you pain or discomfort is an excellent way to manage unresolved conflicts.
The best part about practicing gratitude is that, if you work at it enough and are truly committed to bettering your outlook, it has a long-lasting impact on your life. As you grow more appreciative of the little things, those subtle but crucial moments, you’ll become happier. Changing your attitude to see the brighter side of life will make every day — not just the holidays — a day to be grateful for.
About the Author
Matt O’Grady has always been interested in what can’t be seen but what can be felt, and experienced. He always knew there was so much more to himself, to life, to being a human on the planet, and he has found that in studying psychology, emotional awareness, consciousness, mysticism, meditation, spirituality and working and playing with his self-development.
Matt studied Psychology in college at Hofstra University and has worked in Marketing for the last 25 years. Starting off at the book publishing company Harcourt, Inc. in his corporate career, then moving into Magazine Publishing he then launched his own magazine and custom publishing company, and now in addition to Matt O’Grady Coaching, owns and operates the Digital Marketing Company, HarmoniaMedia.com. Author of Living Gratitude: A Simple Path to Happiness, which has received rave reviews from its readers. Matt also has his own Matt O’Grady Coaching Podcast, 7 years running with over half a million downloads, where he teaches his audience about meditation, self-awareness, how to be happier, more successful, appreciative of the present moment, and deeply grateful. He lives with his wife and 7-year-old son, Patrick, in Huntington, New York.