The holidays are upon us.
And each year, many of us are bombarded with messages of consumerism and get tied up with worry about buying gifts for our families and loved ones. Although these concerns may be legitimate, they may also distract us from what we regard as important.
The holidays mean a lot of different things to different people. That said, it may be a good time of year to acknowledge and cultivate the feeling of gratitude.
Gratitude is, simply put, the feeling of contentment and satisfaction for what we have. And “what we have” may take may different forms including relationships, family, friendships, economic status and may other things. Having something may extend beyond the concrete and become more abstract. And often times, the most important things—like family and friendships—are often the most abstract in nature.
Experiencing gratitude in practice may resemble stopping, even for the briefest of times, and pausing to think about are status in terms of where we are in our lives, what we want, and where we want to be. Of course, Western Cultures have historically praised industrializes and ambition, and although these are generally good traits, the whole point of the holidays is to pause, stop focusing on what we don’t have, and be thankful for what we do have.
This is the essence of the holidays.
Yet is may be pointed out that gratitude isn’t the same for everyone. When a person finds themselves down on their luck with little to show for themselves, how can that individual be grateful for that situation? The honest answer is that gratitude is more of a psychological state, rather than and external one.
And being grateful, too, doesn’t mean we need to forget about any challenging times. In the past year, many of us may have had to say goodbye to a loved one, or perhaps acknowledge a harsh economic reality, or something else. The interesting thing about gratitude is that it can be carved out of any space and exist on the margins, even if we can’t see it there. In other words, no matter how bleak a situation might appear, there may always be—in time—something good that can come out of it, even if it’s hard to notice at first.
In sum, cultivating gratitude during the holidays is a good way to take notice of the positive things we may, in fact, have in our lives. So in between the office holiday parties, buying and receiving gifts, and celebrating on New Year’s Eve, it may be a good idea to step back, breathe, and experience a little gratitude.