This holiday season looks different for many. Heck, this year looks different. And many don’t like it. We hear it constantly, from people complaining about masks and restrictions to arguing on social media about politics, parties and the pandemic. And it can be easy to slide into the complaint fest. I’ve done it too. So read on for four ways to spread gratitude this holiday season and beyond.
Pity party for one
Just the other evening, I poured a glass of wine, sat on my couch and had a pity party for one. I cried, ranted, felt sorry for myself. And about 10 minutes later, I was bored. This pity party wasn’t as much fun as I thought it might be. It kind of made me tired. I didn’t feel emotionally or mentally better either.
So I turned on some fun, upbeat music. I took a relaxing bubble bath. After, I called a good friend for a conversation full of laughs. I journaled about some good things happening in my life. And I felt so much better.
I’m not suggesting a pollyanna outlook that means life is always roses and happy. It’s not. I know that. Three cancers, my dad dying from cancer, a divorce and a few more heavy things tossed in….yeah, sometimes my life has smelled more like poop than roses. Of course, life is full of good, bad and ugly. We acknowledge it. And then move forward, holding onto whatever life preserver we can find. Gratitude can be one of those preservers to keep us afloat. Because so often in our darkest, most negative moments, when we feel the least gratitude, is when we can most benefit from giving thanks.
Finding gratitude in our dark moments
When I learned that I had to add chemotherapy to my breast cancer treatment last year, it was like a punch to the gut. As if a third cancer wasn’t enough of a devastating blow. I had gone through an aggressive chemo regimen during bone cancer that had me in the hospital for most of my 13-month treatment. I lost my hair, needed more than 40 blood transfusions and was often sick. But I knew I had to take the chemo to lower my recurrence risk to less than 1 percent. So I did.
Before my first chemo infusion, I made a list of what I was grateful for about this treatment. It may sound funny to look for gratitude when I was about to pump more poison into my body but I was hopeful if I focused on the good, then my body and mind wouldn’t feel dragged down. I was grateful that the infusion was outpatient rather than inpatient and I “only” had four infusion rounds versus almost 20 during bone cancer. I selected to cold cap to save my hair from chemo (I was bald for 15 months during bone cancer treatment). My knowledge from previously going through treatment helped me prepare to minimize side effects this time. Walking into my first chemo infusion, I felt nervous and anxious, but also prepared and motivated to tackle this journey with strength and optimism.
I look at it this way – life is always moving, we’re always going somewhere. Our decisions and attitudes determine how we move. You choose if it’s forward or stuck in the mud. Focusing on complaining and negativity keep us stuck in anger, fear, frustration, sadness. Shifting our focus to gratitude can also clear our vision to see different solutions and outcomes.
There are many benefits to expressing gratitude. I know I’ve shared some in the past, and I really believe in the health benefits. Here are four ways to spread gratitude.
Focus on your gratitude.
Think of these items in the morning or night, or both. I usually choose at least three to focus on. But if three is too much pressure, choose one. The point is to start your day with a positive outlook and most likely it will continue throughout your day. I also focus on good things before I fall asleep as I swear it helps me sleep better. A subtle shifting of thoughts can lead to positive outcomes.
Do not let another’s reality be relevant to you.
Everyone has opinions on everything, including you and me. When I went through cancer treatments, I received input and opinions about everything I did. I know many meant to be helpful but it also started affecting my outlook as I felt overwhelmed – and made me start second guessing what was best for me. So I started simply thanking people for their perspective and input, and doing what worked for me. This pandemic has really shown different sides to people, from the fighting about masks and restrictions to ignoring health recommendations to attacking teachers and even business employees and owners. It’s sad and frustrating, and sometimes we can be pulled into another’s reality that really has nothing to do with us and our outlook/life. So I choose to not engage and focus on being part of the solution. Focus on what is your reality and truth.
Spread kindness, not complaints.
Being kind benefits everyone. No, seriously, it does. Simple acts of kindness help improve happiness, energy, heart health, blood pressure and more. It can be as simple as wearing a face mask and social distancing in public. Send a card. Give a compliment. Share a helpful blog post. Read my recent post for 10 acts of kindness.
Focus on something you enjoy.
Doing something you like definitely improves your mood. How can you be pessimistic or upset when you’re doing something you enjoy? So make time for your own happiness. I’ve learned that being active improves my mood almost immediately. And I also like to be still and relax in the pause, whether I’m simply sitting quietly, meditating or following a guided meditation. And then I feel gratitude for being able to enjoy these things. I like sharing my activities with others too.
How do you focus on gratitude?
These are just four ways to spread gratitude. What are your tips for changing your focus from complaints to gratitude?