As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s easy to get caught up in “future stress mode.”
You know how it sounds: Who’s going to cook this year? There are only X days until Christmas! Why can’t the stores wait until after Halloween to put up the holiday decorations?? Christmas carols already????
Why is it that we default so easily to future stress mode when the whole fall season is intended to be a time of reflection and gratitude?
The holiday season presents a dizzying array of demands, and it’s no wonder that as soon as we catch a whiff of it, we gird ourselves for the onslaught.
But today, I’m taking the time to stop myself from going there, and I invite you to do the same. I’ll share with you a story that Jennifer Kahtz, founder of Emotive Pull, wrote a few years ago. It showed me just how much control we really have over our own attitudes and over our own happiness. It sparked me to take a time-out of the crazy head games I play, and I hope it will do the same for you, too.
My friend sits in-front of her, leans in, and says, "You are my hero!"
He's not the type to say that to just anyone.
I'm absorbed in admiration as she describes how she literally rewired herself to be happy. How is she still positive despite an extremely challenging life experience most wouldn't stomach?
She described the moment of her shift, "You see a few years back, after my husband passed, for a whole year, I was sooo depressed. Then one day, I decided I was tired of being sad and I was going to be happy!"
She continues, "I woke up every morning, sat in my garden filled with roses and meditated on the top three things I was thankful for. At first, it was hard. I didn't want to wake up. But over time, I began to look forward to this time and I couldn't wait to get up. It takes time and consistency, but when you do this, you'll begin to feel happiness."
After ruminating on her words, I realized that happiness is truly a state of mind and it doesn't have to be determined by our life circumstances.
Today, she's suffering from metastatic cancer and it seems as though she's constantly faced with complication after complication. But despite her challenges, she'll greet you with a warm generous smile authentically emanating a more positive spirit than most. Why? Because her circumstance, although challenging, doesn't seem to collapse her internal state of happy.
After we left our lunch with her, my friend and I walked away feeling powerless to ever complain about our lives again, having just created a deeply embedded memory and lesson that will impact me for a lifetime.
This caused me to begin observing my own internal state of happiness.
I'm beginning a gratitude journal to embark on rewiring my internal happy to appreciate the small blessings that are sometimes forgotten.
What about your internal happy? Are you able to maintain happiness in the midst of chaos or devastation? Are discouraging external circumstances controlling your state of being?
The approach of Thanksgiving and my own experience with “future stress mode” prompted me to think about this, but these are practices that I hope to incorporate year round. But unlike New Year’s resolutions, these aren’t motivated by external desires, but from the inner knowing that this will make me a happier, more peaceful person from the inside out.
There are numerous sources on the internet that provide easy, clever, heartfelt, and meaningful ways to engage in an attitude of gratitude. Just enter “ways to become more grateful” into Google and see what resonates with you. Incorporate them into your day and take note of how they change your level of happiness.
As for me, these suggestions made my heart sing:
Look up when you walk! Notice the nature that surrounds you.
Cook meals with love, think of the people you will feed.
See the growth opportunity in your mistakes.
Every day, say aloud three good things that happened.
Savor the good moments. If you notice you’re feeling happy, stop what you’re doing and pay attention for a few minutes.
Check for silver linings. Even the most difficult life challenges come with some benefit—you just have to look to find them.
Change your perspective. If you struggle to come up with something to feel grateful for, put yourself in the shoes of someone who is experiencing misfortunes greater than your own.
We’d love to know what practices or gestures make you feel happier and more grateful. Share them with us on our Facebook page. Together, we can create a calmer, more peaceful, and happier holiday season!