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Starting the Way We Mean to Finish

November is one of my favorite months. When we all focus on all we have to be thankful for and the world starts feeling more festive as the year winds to a close. Nature fully enters her last explosion of color and the air is feeling a little brisk. My dog gets really excited when there is a nip in the air, it makes her frisky. I think the same thing happens with people. 

We often enter into Gratitude Challenges or make gratitude lists and you see lots of social media posts of all the things people are thankful for: family, favorite places, great cups of coffee.

On Thanksgiving Day I have been known to make my family create a Thanksgiving acronym of things they are thankful for before we eat. Cruel & unusual punishment, I know. (And if you would like to inflict it onto your own people, permission granted.)

The point is that we spend a good 25 days or so focusing on gratitude. It lifts our spirits and puts us in such a positive headspace.

Focusing on gratitude lifts our spirits and puts us in a positive headspace.

Aaaaand then we rush out like crazed wolverines and zoom around town overspending and generally becoming frantic trying to grab the upcoming Christmas spirit by the throat. It WILL NOT ESCAPE! Or we jump online and refresh, refresh, refresh and fight for the best deals in cyberspace while losing all grip on the space-time continuum.

There is a distinct transition from the intentional space of being thankful in November to the frantic race into December, my friend. And that shift totally changes the way we experience the final days of the year. It’s no wonder we get to January 1 totally exhausted.

Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t do your thing on Black Friday or Cyber Monday or Sit-on-your-ass Saturday or however you do it.  You do you. I’m just suggesting that once we have started the holiday season in November in such a positive way it seems a shame to then promptly forget all that thankfulness in the rush and bustle to capture the ‘Christmas spirit’ (or Kwanza or Hanukkah, you fill in the blank). Which, in my experience, usually shows up in lovely ways like yelling at my people, honking at the slowpoke driving in front of me and generally glaring at anyone who is in my way because I am VERY BUSY BEING FESTIVE, as anyone can see.  (But you are probably a better person than me.)

What if instead we extended that mindset of thankfulness into December? What if we continued into the last month of the year in a place of deep gratitude? If we took a minute every day to slow down and revisit all we had to be thankful for in our lives before rushing on to the 235 extra fun and festive holiday tasks and Pinterest plans we have set for ourselves. What if we chose to be grateful for the moment we are in WHILE we are actually in it instead of mentally rushing forward to the next thing on the to-do list.

In her book The Gratitude Diaries, author Janice Kaplan spent a year experimenting with gratitude. She says, “When we think about the big picture, we can make ourselves be grateful. But on a daily basis, a client is irritating, a boss is rude, there’s a lice outbreak at our kids’ school – and we get lost in the vexing details.” 

Or put another way, family is irritating, the traffic is terrible, I have to figure out how to cook a formal holiday dinner for 25, there is a pandemic raging outside. Kaplan goes on to say, “{Gratitude} involves active emotional involvement  – you can’t be passively grateful, you actually have to stop and feel it, experience the emotion.”  So continuing the practice of gratefulness forces us to slow down. take a breath and look around for the good. 

Grateful people reframe whatever happens to them…

they see the good in what they have

But, Sheri, you might be thinking, is there really another months’ worth of gratitude that can be eked out of THIS year? It has been a bumpy, crazy, upside down ride for so many people. And I don’t want to downplay anyone’s struggle. Life can be really challenging. That being said, according to the research, it would appear that gratitude can be found in the midst of any circumstances, even crazy elections and global pandemics. One of the psychologists researching gratitude that Kaplan interviewed found that “you don’t need good events in your life in order to feel gratitude. Instead grateful people reframe whatever happens to them. They don’t focus on what they are lacking; they make sure they see the good in what they have.”

So what if we spent the final days of the year intentionally continuing our November practice of looking for the good in what we have? Refusing to allow the frantic pace of December (or the difficulties of this insane year) to take the wheel. And instead taking deep breaths of gratitude for all the good that remains.

1 Comment

  1. Claire

    So stinkin true. Love your outlook and constant push to see all the good things in life. You are such an inspiration 🙂

    Reply

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