Celebrating the Holidays with an Attitude of Gratitude

From Generations Magazine Fall/Winter 2019-2020

By Kellie Goodman Shaffer

As the holiday season begins earlier each year, with Christmas trees popping up alongside Halloween candy, we are reminded of the seemingly endless list of things to do, places to be, presents to purchase, cookies to bake, and plans to make.

But before we dive head-first into Black Friday sales and bins of lights and decorations, perhaps we should take a moment to remember the reason for the season and work an attitude of gratitude into our celebrations.

Self-made mogul, Oprah Winfrey thrives on the concept, saying: “Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you never will, ever have enough.”

How much time do we spend throughout the year feeling like we don’t have enough? Not enough of the intangibles: time, energy, courage, strength … or the material things: more money, better car, bigger house. Or that we ourselves are not enough … as a parent, a partner, a professional? Taking a moment to breathe and to show gratitude for our many gifts (not the kind you find under the tree) could make all the difference.

Psychology Today outlines proven benefits of gratitude, like better physical and psychological health, better sleep, increased mental strength, improved self-esteem, enhanced empathy, reduced aggression and even more meaningful relationships.

The message is woven through so many of the classic holiday specials of our childhood. Remember when Charlie Brown’s pathetic little pine tree made a statement against the commercialization of the holidays? Or when the Grinch stole Christmas and all the Whos joined in songs of praise anyway?

But finding time amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to explore the concept of gratitude is a little daunting. But there must be more than few moments between football games on Thanksgiving Day to reflect and appreciate.

Maybe it’s a few minutes a day jotting down notes of thanks in a journal; quiet meditation; an evening spent around a board game with family and friends; a quiet walk in the woods; a leisurely drive on a country road; or a good book and cup of tea. A chance to take in nature’s beauty, to spend time with people we care about, or to just do nothing at all for a precious few moments.

John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

There’s so much to enjoy about the holidays, but let’s not miss the best parts. Celebrating with an attitude of gratitude and just being present is perhaps the best gift we can give ourselves.

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