The Gratitude Attitude
In the thick of the holiday rush?
Take a moment to appreciate all that you have -- and are.
By Lynn Harris
Gotta clean the house, buy the turkey, buy the Tofurkey for the
vegetarians, get started on gift shopping before the real rush...you're all
caught up in the big to-do countdown before --
what was the name of that holiday? Oh yeah, Thanksgiving. As in,
giving thanks. Oops. At the time for gratitude, who has time for
It's not about time, but rather about perspective, says M.J. Ryan, author
of Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy
Every Day of Your Life (Conari, 1999). "Gratitude is what we feel when
we look at what's right about our lives," she says.
And why is that important? Especially when something's stressing you
out or getting you down, she says, "When you shine the flashlight of
awareness on what's right [in your life] you have an entirely different
emotional experience. You activate your left
pre-frontal cortex where your positive feelings reside." Not only do you
intellectually "appreciate what you have," you also feel more grateful,
positive, and happy.
Here are some ways to find and express your gratitude, f
or what you have and to others. Keep in mind that gratitude isn't
expressed only an action or an overt "thank you." Sometimes all it takes
is a quick, grounding conversation with yourself. And don't worry: you
can do some of these things while you're running errands.
Remind yourself. Put a sticky note in your car that says, "What do I have
to be thankful for?" suggests Ryan. That way, when you're setting out on
onerous errands, stuck in hellish traffic, or coming home to chaos, you
have the chance to pause and reflect on that which you do consider a
blessing: your health, the loved ones you're shopping for, your nice
Appreciate yourself -- and others. Keep a diary not just of what you did,
but what you did well, and what you appreciate about yourself and
others. "I sometimes write lists of how I was successful that day," says
Karen, 37, of Westborough, Massachusetts, who writes in her journal
when her family is asleep. "Really basic stuff, like 'turned TV off and
played hide-and-seek with kids.' It forces me to acknowledge, when I
can be so hard on myself or focus on what I should be doing, that I'm
really doing all right."
Think "Thanks." "I spend a few minutes each day sitting in my study --
my favorite room -- and gazing into the backyard, which is gorgeous in
any season, but I especially love it when the snow makes the streets
look like they're covered with meringue and sprinkled with sugar," says
Amy, 38, of Lexington, Massachusetts. "It grounds me and gives me a
chance to reflect each day, and it reminds me how lucky I am to have a
home and a yard like this."
Find the positive -- in any situation. Ask yourself, "What's right about
this?" suggests Ryan. When the relatives are being impossible, notice
your niece's adorable dress. When slaving over the stuffing, give
yourself some credit for learning from last year's piecrust mistake and
going with store-bought this year.
Put it on paper. Here's an idea you'll thank us for: Instead of writing your
long Christmas form letter, write specific notes to five special people
and tell them why you're grateful that they're in your life. (Note: Your
Remember the less fortunate. Even with car payments and college
tuitions weighing you down, it's always easy to find gratitude for what
you do have by thinking of -- and giving to -- those with much, much
less. And it's always a great time to write a check, even a teeny one, to
a favorite charity (or even encourage the kids to donate their pennies).
How To Find Peace During The Holidays
ARE YOU HAVING A MERRY CHRISTMAS?
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