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, 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?
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!
Like this article? Go ahead and tweet it!