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It’s that time of year where we talk about gratitude, and I’m glad for the reminder. Because honestly, I have a hard time focusing on gratitude most of the time.
I’d love to say I recognize and cherish all the blessings in my life, there are usually so many things I want or need that attract my attention more. I’m constantly focusing on what’s next, rather than embracing what’s around me.
And when times get tough, my attention definitely gets shifted to what I’m struggling with rather than what we’ve been blessed with. The struggles are just easier to see, I suppose.
But when November hits and the holiday season begins, I’m thankful for the reminder to slow down a little on focus on the good.
But that can be hard, can’t it? Life gets hard and those struggles tend to exhaust us and take all our attention. You’re so focused on the things you want to acquire or achieve you end up missing out of looking around and being in the moment, or even looking back and realizing how far you’ve come.
Still, there are some ways you can be more grateful – holiday season or not.
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Focus more on what’s going on in the present moment than what happened before or what’s going to happen next. It sounds so simple, but it can actually be super hard! It takes effort to really “be” where you are sometimes.
The trick is to not say, “don’t think about ___” – because that’s just going to make you think about that thing more. It’s that whole, “don’t think about the white bear” experiment.
Instead, focus on using all your senses to take in what’s around you. If you’re currently lying in bed reading this on your phone, pay attention to the cushiness of your bed. Think about the lighting. Feel the warmth or coolness of the room. What does it smell like? Think about exactly what you’re experiencing for a moment.
Then try to do that more often. Really feeling your feelings and being in tune with what’s going on around you can help calm you and be more grateful for the tiny wonders around you.
This is especially great if you struggle with anxiety. It brings your focus away from all the “what ifs” swirling in your mind and back to reality.
When we’re mired down in the day to day frustrations, it’s easy to feel like things are extraordinarily unfair and difficult for you. Like you’re the only person to struggle with whatever you’re struggling with, and nobody else could possibly understand.
I get it – more than I’d like to admit.
If you focus on getting outside of yourself, though, it can help you be more grateful for your life.
For instance, do you struggle with dieting? Feel grateful that that’s your struggle versus living in a country where you’d have to worry about finding enough to eat.
Do you live in a house that’s too cramped? Hey, you have a house! Not a hut, not a yurt, not a tent – a legit, roof-over-your-head house. That’s kind of awesome.
Let’s talk about hot running water – on demand! Even if you’re a mom and have a hard time finding time to shower, the fact that you can is pretty amazing.
But if thinking that way doesn’t do much to help you (it doesn’t always help me, either!), the best thing you can do is find someone who needs your help and help them. When you recognize the struggles of others, it helps you feel more connected. It helps you realize you’re not the only one who struggles. And, depending on what you’re helping with, it might just make you grateful it’s not what you personally have to deal with.
Just something to think about!
Keep a journal.
One other thing that can help you get perspective is keeping a journal. Personally, I love mine. It’s amazing to flip back through it and realize the things I struggled with last year have totally resolved themselves this year. Some are still there, but overall, there’s been an improvement in the past year.
Sometimes it’s hard to flip back and see painful memories, but it’s awesome to see how we overcame them and what hidden blessings came as a result.
Plus, it’s fun to think about your kids getting to see what your life was like down the line. Even the mundane aspects of my life will probably be interesting to look back on 20-30 (or more!) years ago.
Being more grateful for the blessings in your life is the best way to be happier. No matter what might be happening in your life right now, there’s always something to celebrate.
What are you most grateful for? Share in the comments below!