It can be hard to feel grateful when there are so many problems facing us in our day-to-day lives. Whether you are facing personal problems, or are a stressed bystander in our world filled with problems on a global scale, there is no shortage of problems. At this time in our collective history, we are facing civil unrest, a declining economy, increased job losses, a global pandemic, and a contentious election cycle. We not only feel it ourselves, but these experiences also take a toll on our friends and families. So many are suffering from a great deal of stress, anxiety, and brokenness in their lives, and this stress is unfortunately also enhanced by our 24-hour access to media which broadcasts problems and woes non-stop. And when we have our focus on problems, we often feel overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness or are paralyzed by our troubles.
If, however, we are willing to look at problems as challenges, we can kindle our creativity; our focus shifts from feeling helpless to feeling motivated to take actions that will lead to a better situation. How do we shift from focusing on the problem, to facing the challenge, and even to seeing the silver lining? One of the first steps we can take is to look for something to be grateful for in the midst of a challenging situation. There is always something to be thankful for. Gratitude is the antidote to feeling helpless and stuck. Gratitude is a stress-buster. Gratitude is the spark that ignites change for the positive.
When we gather around the Thanksgiving table this year, whether virtually or physically, and encounter people whose ideologies are not in line with ours, or who have experienced this pandemic differently than us, or who have made life choices that are very different than ours, we may feel the tension. It is easy to blame others for that tension we feel to help reduce the burden of stress that we carry. However, if instead of blaming others for our feelings or sinking into misery, we choose to focus on what we can be grateful for, we will likely experience our time together, and this time in our lives, in a completely different way. This shift in focus is simple, and not necessarily easy. But I challenge you to give it a try.
In these unusual times, what silver linings can you find?
How have your relationships grown? Have you been able to spend more quality time with those you love? Have you learned new skills, such as learning how to master technology enough to allow you to continue to work remotely or to connect with friends and family? Have you been able to pursue a hobby you wouldn’t otherwise have time to do? Have you upped your exercise game? Have you expanded your cooking skills and recipe repertoire? Have you purged your closets? Have you become more involved in causes that matter to you? Have you taken some time to just be, to recharge and replenish?
Take a quiet moment, look around, and find 5 things for which you are grateful. You may find you have more to be grateful for than you think. As you develop gratitude as a habit, you will notice that you approach challenges differently, not as a stumbling block but as an opportunity. As you spend time with loved ones over this holiday season, for what will you give thanks?