It’s hard to believe that November is already here! With the advent of this month, the holiday frenzy is beginning to rev up. If you’re like me, you’re probably eagerly awaiting the release of Black Friday ads and squirreling away cash for Christmas gifts. I usually live the next several weeks teetering between expectant excitement and complete overwhelm as I check things off my never-ending to-do list in preparation for Christmas. As a mom, the weight of making magic happen for your family can be heavy. This year I want, no, I NEED, more than anything to simply feel peace and enjoy this season. I’m challenging myself (and you) to take a deep breath and focus on thanksgiving.
I’m not talking about capital ‘T’ Thanksgiving, but rather the heart of the holiday: gratitude.
Despite the fact that it is often lost in the shuffle, Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. I love the simplicity of the day. The only magic we are expected to create is the magic of being truly present with people who love us. We aren’t expected to buy gifts, but to share the experience of giving the free gift of gratitude for one another. It is a day where everyone is encouraged to look for the nuggets of good in an imperfect world. Obviously, stuffing myself full of delicious, nostalgic food is definitely the whipped cream on the pumpkin pie. I want to take the values of what makes this day so special and integrate them more into our every day.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie
There have been many studies on the benefits of practicing a lifestyle of gratitude, not only psychologically but physically as well. Living a life with a gratitude practice has been proven to lower blood pressure, improve sleep quality, and grateful people report fewer health issues over all. Very interesting.
I am sure that, like me, you are already overwhelmed with a thousand other easily forgotten practices so I need to keep anything “extra” as simple as possible if I really want it to stick. I want to share with you a few ways my family practices gratitude already and a few ideas I want to incorporate in the coming weeks.
Words of affirmation are definitely one of my top love languages, but sometimes it feels awkward to pour your heart out in person, especially if you cry during things like that. I remember having a slightly older, but much wiser teenage friend give me a letter one November that expressed gratitude for my friendship and spent some time encouraging me. She told me that her family liked to do this every year in celebration of Thanksgiving. I would love to give letters like this to friends and family, and I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t want to feel significant and seen! Plus, writing down your feelings is so therapeutic. Is there anyone who has made an impact on your life that you’d like to thank?
Speak what you see
I do this all the time and sometimes it can feel weird, but just do it! When you are out in public and notice something positive about a stranger, tell them — you will make their day. “I love your outfit!” “Your makeup looks great!” Or if you see a fellow mama in the trenches, compliment her on how well behaved her children are or tell her she’s doing a good job when her kid is melting down in the checkout line. This not only deposits kindness in someone else’s life, but it really will shift your own perspective as well. If I go out with this mindset I find myself constantly looking for the good qualities in the people around me. If you look hard enough, you can always find something beautiful and good in someone. It really makes me appreciate the differences in the people around me.
Do a social media purge
If there are accounts or people who make you feel badly about your life, unfollow them! Seriously. Comparison is the thief of joy and if you find yourself dissatisfied with your own life after seeing someone else’s seemingly perfect online persona, take a break. Comparing yourself or your lifestyle to someone else takes the focus off of all the beautiful things you are and have, just as you are. You are good enough. Like the great and powerful Oprah said, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
The days are getting shorter and shorter and we need that good vitamin D to stay healthy and happy. Each time I spend time in nature I find myself extremely grateful for the beautiful world I live in and all the details I take for granted. It’s also a great time to be aware of how cool our bodies are! There is breath in our lungs and eyes that can see and legs that carry us and hands to hold our kid’s sticky little hands…you get the picture.
Model thankfulness for your family
This last one feels weighty to me because they see me at my worst and most ungrateful. I really desire to raise my children with gratitude ingrained in their character. At night during our bedtime routine, we have been asking for one thing the kids are thankful for that day. It is easy to be grateful when you look at these amazing little people who love you, so I don’t hold back in gushing over them.