This time of year, I battle with sadness.
Despite the holidays and the joy of celebrations, December brings a groundswell of insomnia and melancholy into my life.
It is a mixture of things- the season (I dislike winter because it brings darkness and cold into my world), the passage of time (the ending of the year and things left undone) and the loss of a loved one (my beloved grandmother died on December 27th.)
This negative surge has transpired every December now for the past 12 years, but I’ve finally learned a great technique to dispel it quickly.
The practice of gratitude.
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. William Arthur Ward
Gratitude is a powerful force- research shows that those that consistently practice gratitude experience greater well-being to include positive emotions, better sleep, ease in expressing compassion, empathy, and kindness, and even have a stronger immune system.
There is power in positivity; in fact, many world religions focus on gratitude as a significant foundation to their faith including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Practicing gratitude may sound simple, but it takes effort!
Here are a few things I’ve found to be most useful:
1. Be Mindful- Begin and end your day with gratitude. Start your day with thanksgiving for being alive and having the ability to get out of bed! At the end of each day express one thing you are thankful for- recount the best part of your day.
2. Thank You Attitude- Go out of your way to thank someone daily. A simple thank you goes a long way. Get creative – thank your mailman, the lady who cleans your office space, the teenager that bags your groceries, your kids for being considerate, or your spouse for taking the garbage out. Being thankful for the acts of service done by others keeps us humble and appreciative.
3. No Complaints- They say if you do anything for at least 21 days you form a new habit. Take a vow to not utter a single complaint for 21 days. You will be amazed at how easy and often complaints just fly out of your mouth without a second thought. If you can master taming complaints, you can find liberation in removing the toxicity that grumbling, complaining and negativity bring to your life.
4. Take Inventory- Literally, count your blessings. Taking time to write out the things in your life that you are grateful for can infuse thankfulness into your soul and help you to focus on the positives and not the negatives. Can you write out 50 things that are affirmative in your life? How about hot running water, reliable transportation, access to an abundance of food. The list goes on….
5. Recognize the Good- If you’ve ever read the Yiddish Folk Tale- “It Could Always Be Worse” then you know how important it is to keep things in perspective and recognize the importance of being thankful for the good things in your life- that whether by choice or by happenstance life could drastically change. Take time to volunteer at a homeless shelter, women's shelter, hospital or food pantry, and you may quickly have a change in perspective!
"I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds." ~ Psalm 9:1
Whether you are washed over with discontent, envy, self-reproach, anxiety or depression-- gratitude is just what the doctor ordered.
May you experience a groundswell of gratitude in this new year!
Father, thank you for your unfailing love- may you bless us in all circumstances with the ability to see you and your goodness. Help us to practice gratitude and overcome any toxic thoughts, attitudes or conditions that may try to overcome and blind us to your truth.
Give thanks to Adonai; for He is good, for His grace continues forever. ~ Psalm 107:1