A s we move into the holiday season, it can be easy to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle. We worry about getting the best deals and buying enough presents for everyone; hosting the perfect holiday party; having a perfectly decorated home. There’s so much pressure to be Cultivate Gratitude This Seasoncommercially perfect that we forget the core feelings of the season.

No, I’m not going to get on my religious soapbox and preach about reasons. Instead, I’m talking about the feelings that are universally desired by us all, no matter the specific holidays we celebrate: gratitude, love, peace, joy, and hope.

As I write this, it’s Thanksgiving week for most of us in the States, and much of my Facebook feed has been filled with status updates in the “what I’m grateful for” vein. It’s nice to see what my friends and colleagues appreciate about their lives.

A few days from now, though, it’s just as likely to be chock-full of complaints about the cold, the crowds, and the craziness of December. When the stress arrives, all those words of grace and gratitude will slip away.

And I get it. It’s hard not to get caught up in the festive frenzy. We may wish to embrace those core-desired feelings but we’re constantly being bombarded with new pressures: rush here, buy this. It’s a kind of energy that can be contagious, and we aren’t entirely safe from it even at home. It’s grabbing at us from endless emails, television ads, and our friends’ social media feeds.

When you pair that with the shorter days and weaker sunlight experienced by those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s no surprise that many of us become grouchy and blue.

The best solution I’ve found to counteracting this is gratitude. When served daily, gratitude can fuel your joy, rewire your brain, and shift your entire way of being.

I won’t bore you with the scientific or philosophical thoughts on gratitude that I shared this summer (though you can read them here). I want to offer you the gentle reminder that cultivating some kind of gratitude practice during this time of year is a way to armor yourself against the contagion.

This isn’t to say that a gratitude practice doesn’t come with challenges. The pressure to find the silver thread can sometimes be daunting, and even though I am very much aware that we have to feel all of our feelings in order to move through the dark and into the light, I also know that gratitude helps us to do so. It carries us through the crappy days, and beyond.

Darling, when you allow yourself to create a practice of gratitude, the big picture view of your life will begin to feel (and look) a whole lot better.

Gratitude is just one side of a coin, though. The flip side, is Receiving.

If gratitude is a process of acknowledgement, then receiving is the action of taking in and experiencing the things you are grateful for.

Many of us feel challenged by the idea of receiving. We look upon the good things in our lives, and the little voice in our head says “you don’t deserve this,” or “you are so selfish,” or “you are so egotistical.”

Darling, you are worthy of being loved and being accepted. You deserve to have good things in your life – whether they are material or spiritual. You deserve to have your desires become reality. Receiving and appreciating is not selfish. Having something good in your world isn’t stealing it from another. Expressing your gratitude for your blessings and achievements is not egotistical.

When you dive into gratitude, celebrate the victories and allow yourself to receive, your life – and the lives of every person you come in contact with – will benefit. When I talk about the contagiousness of energy, it’s important to remember that hope and love are also contagious.

Fear and lack beget fear and lack. But gratitude, joy and love only beget more love and more joy.

Allow yourself to take this Thanksgiving week as your turning point. Dive into your hopes and desires as you carry the spirit of giving to others. Allow yourself to receive the blessings before you and celebrate your gifts. Invite love and peace into your world.

Armor your soul from the frenzy by cultivating gratitude. It will allow you to usher in a deeper sense of joy and peace for you and everyone you love.

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Debra is a life coach, writer, and tarnished southern belle. She resides in Dayton, OH.
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