Grateful, Thankful, Blessed.... or Stressed?
Can you believe Thanksgiving is less than a week away? If you're anything like me, November 1st rolls around and I start making vows of everything my family is going to do to cultivate a season of gratitude, joy, and contentment. I'm determined that this is going to be the year I won’t lose it, and instead, focus on and celebrate all the blessings I have in my life. Yet quickly, that resolution fades. Life goes back to the mundane, children wake up cranky, school activities start ramping up, housework never ends, and added with the extra family and budget pressures of the holidays, slowly, but surely, my best intention of gratitude turns into a reality of anxiety. Oftentimes, December hits and I wonder what I was possibly thinking that glorious first morning in November. So, how can we practice gratitude, in a way that works on November 1st, and not abandoned by December 10th, encouraging our family into a joy-filled holiday season?
My first suggestion, actively make gratitude a family practice. Included in my 'Tis the Season holiday bundle (available here) is a “Gratitude Tree” for November. As a family, we fill it out every morning and place it on our fridge. Some of my favorites so far have been "Bozeman" (we love our town!), "teechers", "for bing 3", and "choices that our ancestors made that lead us to this great family" (from my oldest son James, no idea where that came from). Practice this every day and not only will it instill that thankfulness, but it will be a lasting tradition that solidifies gratitude within your family’s heart; how you cultivate it together. I also keep it where I will see it often (hence the fridge), so when I feel overwhelmed and anxious, I can actively replace those feelings with gratitude and meditate on all the ways we are so blessed as a family.
Second, take time to create your own personal gratitude journal, (another item included in the bundle). Every day, whether it’s during nap-time, early in the morning, evening after bedtime, or PBS Kids time, write down three things you are grateful for, and then a beautiful memory from the day before. Even when you’re on the verge of tears, bills are piling up, your toddler is throwing a tantrum, and you feel like a mama on the edge, there is always, always something to be thankful for. If you make this a practice every day, writing this down will bring you more peace, when anxiety wants to set in.
All of us truly desire to have the holidays filled with joy, and I encourage you to ramp up the gratefulness with either the above suggestions, or ones of your own. Actively replace anxiety with gratitude, stress with thankfulness, and see how the joy overflows, and there is no better time to start than as we approach Thanksgiving. David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine Monk, said, “It is not joy which makes us grateful, but gratitude is what makes us joyful”. As we enter into Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, my prayer for you is, if nothing else, you will instill in yourself and your family a deep sense of gratefulness no matter where your circumstances take you. Just as Steindl-Rast was quoted above - gratitude is the path to joy, and in this case, the foundation for a joy-filled holiday season.
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