Cultivating Gratitude Over the Holidays
Recently, a dear friend of mine visited me in Houston from out of town, which excited me but also sent me into a cleaning frenzy. This friend had never seen my apartment before, and I wanted it to be spotless and organized and cool and interesting and all kinds of fabulous. For some reason, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to spruce up my home and make everything “better” – whatever “better” meant.
At the time, I was feeling insecure about the fact that I don’t own a home, like most of my peers do, and I wanted to do everything I could to make up for my lack of expensive home furnishings, fancy artwork, and a big backyard (to be really honest, I think I was attempting to compensate for my perceived lack of success). My embarrassment and feelings of inadequacy spurred me to hone in on all the tiny details of how my apartment was decorated.
As I rearranged knick-knacks and dusted picture frames, my feelings of inadequacy began to dissipate and were soon replaced by feelings of appreciation. The notable shift in my mood took me aback for a moment. I realized that each one of my mementos represented something meaningful: a fun vacation, a birthday celebration, a family gathering, a friend’s wedding, etc. Each photo and figurine brought to mind important people in my life, and my mood immediately improved. The more attention I paid to these treasures, the more I realized just how rich I am – not in the literal sense – but I am rich with experiences, lessons learned, friendships, and memories. Instead of letting these things fade into the background, thus allowing them to lose all meaning, I shone a mental spotlight on them illuminating their significance. By actively focusing on what I had instead of what I didn’t have, I was flooded with gratitude.
So, as we approach the seasons of thanks-giving and gift-giving, for what gifts in your life are you most thankful? How might you actively cultivate more gratitude for what you have? Maybe try to maintain a daily gratitude journal so that you may jot down anything in your life you’re thankful for – regardless of how small it might seem. We don’t have to limit our focus or expressions of gratitude to just one day or just one month. It’s a worthwhile exercise to engage in year-round.
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