It’s been nearly a week since Thanksgiving. You know, that special day when most of us can easily access all our feelings of thankfulness and gratitude. That day, or few days, when we’re usually surrounded by those who we love the most, doing all the holiday-type things, so it’s easy to feel all the feels.
And since Thanksgiving more or less ushers in the holiday season, we find ourselves dripping with spirit and joy and excitement pretty much straight through the New Year. Because once we carve that bird, the holiday engine fires up white hot and we’re drenched in a cloud of happiness and holiday Muzak straight through til January. And most of us ride that wave like a boss until it breaks, just after the ball drops.
That’s right about the time the reality of how much we overindulged or unplugged or slacked off hits us right between the eyes. Then we all get bogged down again by the priorities and realities and day-to-day stress that picks up right where our holiday vibe left off.
It’s about this time, after we’ve hit the maximum girth of our track pants and used our last vacation day, that our feelings of appreciation and thankfulness tend to slink back into our peripheral vision. And our mood starts to sour because the grind awaits. And that’s hard, because the grind can be sucky if we don’t temper it with a happy heart. Because it’s hard to relight our pilot light after we’ve just had this delicious pocket of time to reset and connect (or disconnect) and recharge. Exiting that magical place in time and space and knowing it’s not coming again for another whole year can be a massive buzzkill.
I mean, it’s no wonder people have post-holiday depression, because once the holiday season is over, and all the hype that comes with it is gone, our focus shifts back to all the stuff we’ve compartmentalized from Thanksgiving through the New Year. But it doesn’t have to be that way, I’m sure of it. I know there are things we can all do to preserve our feelings of gratitude and happiness straight through the year. And I think it’s really all about learning to integrate thankfulness into our everyday lives. It’s about making gratitude a habit.
See, as far as I’m concerned, that’s totally doable. Because how we decide to think and act every day is all just a matter of choice. Our choice.
We can just as easily decide to live intentionally and with purpose and appreciation as we can choose not to live that way. It’s our decision how we engage with the world and whether or not we allow ourselves to access our gratitude all year long. And honestly, why the hell wouldn’t we want to tap into that little mood-booster every day?
Let’s spend a sec deconstructing what gratitude really is according to my friends at Psychology Today. They say that practicing gratitude means paying attention to what we are thankful for to the degree of feeling kinder and more compassionate toward the world at large. It can motivate people to make positive changes in their lives. Studies show that people can deliberately cultivate gratitude by literally counting their blessings and writing letters of thanks, for example. This proactive acknowledgement can increase well-being, health and happiness. Being grateful - and especially the expression of it - is also associated with increased energy, optimism and empathy.
After all, that’s what gratitude is in its purest form. Right? Gratitude is like a clarity pill that allows us to see everything and everyone around us in the most authentic way possible. And when we can clearly see all the beauty in our life, it’s usually hard to see anything else. That’s because it’s addictive to feel happy and inspired and grateful. I guess you could say that gratitude is a natural stimulant. And since it’s organic, that means there are no dosage limitations, so we can’t overdo it.
So don’t for a second assume that you can’t maintain a holiday-like sense of gratitude all the time, because you can. In fact, it’s in your best interest to shift your thinking a little bit every day to ensure your priorities stay in alignment. Honestly, it’s really just a matter of integrating a few little practices into our daily routine, like sticking Post-it Notes on our bathroom mirror to help us remember to take a hard pause every day to just be grateful. Or, if you have an iPhone, do what I do and set an alarm or block off five minutes a day to stop what you’re doing and just focus on what’s really important to you.
Remember, friends, gratitude is always accessible … we just have to access it.
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at lisasugarman.com. Or, find them on LittleThings.com, Hot Moms Club, BeingAMom.life, GrownandFlown.com, More Content Now, and Care.com. She is also the author of “LIFE: It Is What It Is and Untying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots - And How to Get Free” available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at select bookstores.