I am no different from anyone else. When my life was in the crapper and Thanksgiving came, I was convinced that I had nothing to be grateful for. Over the years, however, I have come to understand that gratitude is one of the best ways out of holiday depression and isolation.
When you are feeling down where do you begin? It all starts with your attitude.
"Attitude, to me, is more important than facts…more important than circumstances. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what people think…say, or do…we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”
Those are the thoughts of American writer and clergyman Charles R. Swindoll, in 1934. The ideas are nothing new, but they are easily forgotten when we are in the throes of unhappiness. In other words, to survive the holidays we need an “attitude of gratitude.”
Family gatherings can send many people deeper into their sadness. They have unrealistic expectations, often shaped by materialistic popular culture. When we face our own personal challenges and the distress that often accompanies family gatherings, it’s time to develop a strategy to recognize the good stuff in our lives. Here are a few tips on how to jumpstart your gratitude.
• Read the newspaper or watch the news on television, and you’ll be reminded quickly how much better life is for you than it is for people who have experienced violence, natural disasters and profound loss at some point in their lives.
• Visit a nursing home or a hospice for a glimpse into the lives of people who are ill. Some may be completely alone.
• Simply look around you at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Be thankful that you have family, friends or acquaintances to gather with, food to eat, and a nice place to gather in.
"We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts, with our thoughts we make the world." So spoke Siddhārtha Gautama, the Supreme Buddha. In the spirit of the holidays we can brighten our lives. Why not take matters a step further and brighten the world around you?