Guys, the holidays are upon us. I know, right?!?! My stomach just started getting in knots while I typed that… But since I’m a professional counselor and all, I decided I should do something about this panic and make a change so I can actually enjoy this season! I’m guessing I’m not alone in these feelings, so I want us to work on this together. Read on and see what you think.
Professionally and personally, I know that anxiety/worry and gratitude cannot coexist – it’s like oil and water. It’s impossible to be freaking out about something and simultaneously feel gratitude for anything.
So, here’s what I’ve come up with: I want to see what happens when a person chooses to view life primary through the lens of gratitude. I’m not talking about a “Pollyanna” approach to life (those who don’t get the “Pollyanna” reference are making me feel very old). I’m not saying that we should ignore the hard stuff about life, act like it’s no big deal, and just be grateful to be alive. Instead, I mean being open to and aware of the positive stuff – being able to relax into the inevitable gratitude for what we see, smell, touch, taste, hear: what we feel. That may mean soaking up the moments reading a good book, smiling at the burn of a good work out, or relishing the crunchiness of an apple. It may mean focusing for a moment on the softness of your favorite sheets or the pleasure of solving a riddle. The key element here is choosing to view your world through a lens of gratitude.
I want to make a distinction here between finding the silver lining in all circumstances and gratitude awareness. Finding silver linings means thinking, searching, and sometimes stretching, to come up with a positive thing about a negative situation. There are times when this isn’t too difficult, but there are times when it’s not only difficult, it’s inappropriate. I haven’t been able to find the positive in child abuse, nor do I want to try. For abuse victims, suggesting that they should be grateful for any aspect of their abuse is at least insensitive and at worst cruel.
Gratitude awareness is not about making sense of the past; it’s about enjoying the present and looking forward to more enjoyment in the future. When I wake up in the morning before my head even leaves the pillow, I will say, “I choose to experience today and not miss out on everything around me that I can enjoy.” This can also be a prayer, asking “God, open my heart to what You have given me and show me how to experience gratitude in a new way.” Saying this in the morning, during lunch, and before bed will be our refocus tools to keep our lens of gratitude in place.
It’s so very simple. All I need to do is look around at what’s already there and easy to enjoy and take delight in it with a thankful heart.