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It’s a festive time of year and it’s hard not to be caught up in the buzz of it all. We’re often encouraged to not be a scrooge and instead to be festive and happy.

We can’t be happy, however, if we’re not grateful. But what happens when you’re just not feeling it? Sure the holidays mean time off work but they can also mean stress, obligations and even let downs. They can highlight what’s missing or make you nostalgic for times past.

Sometimes it’s just hard to feel festive let alone grateful.

Let’s rewind a couple weeks. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What’s not to love? The bustle of a house crammed full of family,18NNxqe kids and dogs. Food and football. Tons of laughing. A bit of wine. And more food. It’s a holiday that has a feeling; loud, cozy and accepting.

When I learned that again I’d be missing my family’s Thanksgiving I felt instantly deflated. And I cried.

And threw a solid pity party. I thought about everything that got me down: like why we live far from family, the downside of compromise and how it sucks royally when you actually have to give up what you want. Like how I’d miss waking up in my childhood bed and getting over-fed, the laughs with my brothers, cuddle time with my niece and nephews, bonding with my sisters-in-law. And of course how I’d miss my parents, every single thing about them.

In short, I felt bad for myself. It was easy to do and I did it pretty hard.

I waited for my husband to get home so I could rattle off all the reasons I was sad, knowing that in doing so I’d pass some blame to him. Then I stopped, witnessing this insanity.

Cue the guilt of knowing there are far worse things in the world than not getting to go home for the holidays. So I fought my sadness and then I fought myself for fighting my sadness, finally agreeing to let myself have a minute in the dark hole of despair before sucking it up.

I took a shower and sat down to meditate. I prayed for peace in my heart and for strength to find gratefulness amid the homesickness. I remembered a commitment I’d made to surrender outcomes and let go of expectations. To do this I had to have faith that things are as they should be. Trust is easy, I realized, when there’s no need to practice it. (FYI: This kind of surrender isn’t fun when you’re committed to pouting.)

When we shine a light on what we don’t have, it darkens what we do. (Tweet this!)

I know, I know, you’ve heard this before. But what if it were possible to be grateful for what we don’t have too? That’s right, what if we tried actively giving thanks for what’s missing? This was a foreign concept but I had nothing to lose so I gave it a try. It worked.

If you’re having a hard time feeling grateful, give this a try:

You might not feel grateful but you can choose to be grateful. (Tweet this!)

Instead of pretending like you’re not upset, sad or whatever feeling is keeping you from happiness, witness it and then laser in on something that’s going right for you. Instead of denying that you’re not happy, reframe the lens through which you look at the situation to focus on the good. Consider what could be worse: in that contrast is a blessing.

It’s a simple shift in perspective. A choice.

Next, take a minute and actively give thanks for what you don’t have. Speak allowed your thanks for both what you do and don’t have, even something little.

What small things are going right for you? What could be worse?

design (6)I’m no saint and this was easy enough even for me. I was reminded that there’s always something more in the works, a story unfolding and things yet to come. I decided to give thanks for the chance to test my commitment to giving up on expectations. Then I chose to be grateful for waking up this morning, for having a family I actually miss and for not passing blame to my husband (for once).

I chose to be grateful for the friends who welcomed us into their home last minute for Thanksgiving which was a blessing all it’s own.

And I’ve got to tell you, in that shift I became truly grateful.

Whether you’re celebrating with your friends and family in person or from afar this holiday season, whether you’re overflowing with gratitude or struggling to find a sliver, try letting go of expectations. Try choosing to be grateful by finding a blessing in what’s missing. In doing so you’ll find peace, even for a minute.

The best and only option is to choose to see your situation differently; to choose to be grateful even when it’s the hard choice. And to trust that the gratefulness you feel will open up the way for even more to be grateful for.

Can you relate? How do you “get” festive over the holidays? Let us know in the comments below!

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Anne Omland is a leadership and career development expert helping ambitious women define their leadership style and survive burnout. For a limited time you work with Anne in a completely customizable way to help you negotiate for a raise, get a promotion, change careers, get noticed and master your new leadership position. Click here to send an email inquiring about details!
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  • SAra December 16, 2014, 5:10 pm

    Oh my goodness I love this. You are so write. “You may not feel grateful, but you can choose to be grateful.” It’s all about perspective.

    Reply
    • Anne Omland December 16, 2014, 10:04 pm

      Yes! Thanks Sara!

      Reply
  • Jewels December 16, 2014, 5:18 pm

    Thank you so much for your beautiful words. I just took an evaluation of my year and WOW. Feeling the gratitude for all that has come to fruition. And as the saying goes, the energy flows where the attention goes. Feeling the love.

    Reply
    • Anne Omland December 16, 2014, 10:04 pm

      I love this Jewels! So often this time of year it’s easy to focus on what we haven’t done or accomplished but what a bummer! This is a far better approach. xo

      Reply
  • Marie Overfors December 16, 2014, 6:04 pm

    How I get festive: Sit back. Relax. Remember, it’s about being fully present, enjoying the people in my life and feeling gratitude for blessings. :)

    Reply
    • Anne Omland December 16, 2014, 10:03 pm

      Amen to that! It sounds so easy :) Thanks Marie!

      Reply
  • victoria m. December 16, 2014, 8:45 pm

    Isn’t it funny how the most counter-intuitive truths are oftentimes the way to go? I love how you have turned the idea of being grateful for what you don’t have into a bless-fest. In the end, you are absolutely right, it is all about how you re-frame your perception of the world.

    Happy Holidays Anne!

    Reply
    • Anne Omland December 16, 2014, 10:02 pm

      A bless-fest…love it! Thanks Victoria!

      Reply
  • Mike Goncalves December 16, 2014, 9:23 pm

    What a terrible post Anne. Thanks for your honesty and sharing your thoughts about gratitude. Having lived away from my family for 14 years, I can certainly relate to you and what you felt as well not being around family for the holidays and feeling like there was little to be grateful for. Maybe it was losing my grandfather and my dad that made me grateful for all I did have. When it comes to the holidays, I get festive because I can. I’m healthy, I have food shelter, and people – family and friends, near and far, who love and support me. There is no greater feeling to me than knowing this. I always think back to childhood and get nostalgic about it around the holidays. I don’t know if that’ll ever stop happening and I’m fine if it doesn’t. I love those memories. As sad as they can make me sometimes, they also always put a smile on my face. Happy Holidays Anne… you’re awesome. Cheers! :)

    Reply
    • Anne Omland December 16, 2014, 10:01 pm

      Thanks so much, Mike! I know what you mean- it’s easy to be nostalgic and miss being a kid. I love your perspective: we have so much to be grateful for, we just have to choose to be grateful.

      Reply
  • Mui December 16, 2014, 11:34 pm

    Sometimes it’s difficult to feel grateful but I love what you said about choosing to be grateful. Being grateful for what I have and for what has gone right is something that I try to do on a daily basis. It’s easy to wallow in negativity if we don’t consciously remind ourselves how lucky we are with what we’ve got. Thanks for the reminder!

    Reply
    • Anne Omland December 17, 2014, 8:44 pm

      Me too Mui. It’s far easier to see the negative or to notice what’s missing. I love that you’ve got a gratitude practice down!

      Reply
  • Sam Morrisey December 17, 2014, 9:35 am

    It can be so hard to recondition ourselves to be grateful! I feel like society has conditioned us to believe hardship is honourable! It’s insane! Make the conscious choice to be GRATEFUL! :-) Beautiful post.

    Reply
    • Anne Omland December 17, 2014, 8:43 pm

      Thanks Sam! I hadn’t thought about it that way but it’s true.

      Reply
  • Silvia December 20, 2014, 3:35 pm

    Wonderful advice Anne…especially since it comes from experience. I had to work hard at feeling my feelings; not judging them; telling myself I shouldn’t be feeling them. I’ve now come to know that even the shittiest feelings come up to be seen…so then we can gently and gratefully let go of them. How can we heal what we don’t know (or are not willing to see) is there? So…everything…literally is a gift!

    Reply
    • Anne Omland January 6, 2015, 3:53 pm

      Beautifully said, Silvia. You’re a poet! And I totally agree :)

      Reply
  • april December 21, 2014, 2:22 am

    oh, anne – this is so very timely for me this season. “[the holidays] can highlight what’s missing.” this is exactly how i’ve been feeling this year: mourning my mom and the way she used to decorate and celebrate like a shining-eyed child, feeling left out (long story) of the festivities with my husband’s family, missing the former (better) relationship i had with my siblings. but i clearly need to stop whining, to realize and appreciate what i do have. the best husband and two sons i could ever imagine, and the opportunity to be with them this christmas. thank you.

    Reply
    • Anne Omland January 6, 2015, 3:55 pm

      Oh April, this is inspiring. I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Although it’s easier said than done, at least you have those memories with your mom, at least you have siblings to miss. Gratefulness isn’t one size fits all; even just in saying those things, you’re grateful for them. x

      Reply
  • April December 25, 2014, 4:00 am

    What a great post Anne! I especially loved your “When we shine a light on what we don’t have, it darkens what we do.” quote!! Really, really, really inspiring!! Thank you for such a timely and relevant post!

    Reply
    • Anne Omland January 6, 2015, 3:55 pm

      Thanks April! Glad you liked it!

      Reply
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