Today is Thanksgiving and it brings with it a plethora of emotions. I have been interviewed many times by magazines and holiday stress has always been the number one topic. It seems ironic that a period of time that is supposed to be focused on experiencing gratitude, joy, and connection with family and friends is often fraught with anxiety.
The biggest culprit is the expectation that things could be different this year. But, as I have learned, nothing changes in and of itself. It takes a certain degree of effort to create a different paradigm. Unfortunately most of us have ways of seeing situations in certain ways and it takes work to see them differently. We may have grudges against a relative or relatives, be trying to recover from grief, dealing with pain, or in a difficult relationship. Suddenly, the messages surrounding us from the media are to be grateful, be happy, forget the past and just hold hands and sing “We are the World”.
Would Thanksgiving be less of a hassle if grateful living were its predecessor? Could we get along with some of the most irritating and difficult people at the dinner table if we could see the potential in learning more patience and understanding? I know this sounds like a page out of a self-help book, but it definitely has some merit. Consider how much energy we put into discussing how someone or somethings drives us nuts versus how often we share how many things we’re grateful for. Think about how much less stress we would have if we could simply stop repeating stories about old grievances. This is not an easy task since it takes awareness and the desire to change our perspective. Letting go can also help our immune system.
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is tough. We live in a society based on striving. Our busy, techno driven culture takes a lot of our attention. However, gratefulness is not necessarily about having to stop throughout the day to write in a journal. It is really about letting go of a victim mentality, a sense of entitlement and deservedness. I suggest you read Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, one of the foremost authorities on the topic of gratitude in North America.
Perhaps this year you may want to start your meal by asking everyone seated at the table what they are grateful for. Beginning your meal with this conversation could dampen any need to discuss “old stuff”. You might want to have everyone write in a gratitude journal as well. This could help you to counter some negative feelings you have about its author.
You could discover that practicing gratitude as a way of life may make your life happier, healthier and less stressful