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Practicing Gratitude

After what has been an exhausting year for many of us, the holidays have suddenly descended on us. How are you thinking about them? Are you welcoming them with open arms, or are they just one more thing on your very full to-do list?

For me, the holidays this year are an opportunity for normalcy. Maybe that’s too optimistic, but that’s how I’m approaching them. I am also choosing to feel gratitude for these final months of 2020, even before I know how they are going to turn out. As I am writing this, I don’t know how the US election has turned out; I don’t know how Thanksgiving or Christmas will look with COVID and family who are high-risk and don’t need exposure to our usual get-togethers; I don’t know how things might go if we are together with family members with whom we have strained relationships. However, I do know I am already practicing gratitude for all of it, no matter how it all turns out.

Did you realize we can practice feeling the feelings we want to feel ahead of time? I find this to be such a useful tool! I use it for many different things. When I am leading a meeting that I imagine might be difficult, I think carefully about the outcome I want and how I want to feel at the end of it. Then, I practice the thoughts required to feel that feeling. I journal about how I want to think about this outcome and how it will feel to have achieved the outcome—even though the meeting hasn’t happened yet.

This is the power of a well-managed mind. Practicing feelings works equally well for reframing stories of our past, but that’s a topic for another day. Our brains will find things to focus on, and if we want to achieve better results in our lives, then we should start by giving our brains very specific outcomes on which to focus. Without them, they will follow old, predictable patterns. If you are usually anxious about how cousin Bob will act, or if you dread sitting through a meal with your extended family, your brain will focus on those thoughts.

If your brain is focused on negative thoughts and feelings, the result is probably going to be negative as well, so why not just re-route your brain before you ever get there? Gratitude is a feeling of abundance, and in my mind, the holidays are the perfect time for feeling abundant.

I will go into this holiday season feeling an abundance of gratitude for each and every person who enters my path. I will be grateful for having family and friends with whom I can spend time and for whom I choose to feel love. I will think about my sister-in-law who passed away during last year’s holiday season, and I will be so grateful for the time I had to spend with her. As an only child, I am especially grateful for my husband’s large family.

Lastly, I will be grateful for all of the ups and downs of this last year’s journey. It is that journey that brought me here, and here is a wonderful place to be. Thank you for going on this journey with me. I am grateful for you and wish you an abundant holiday season. Much love!

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