Thirty Days of Thanks and the Search for Holiday Happiness

30 Days of Thanks
How to begin a life of gratitude

I know talking about the holidays this early makes some people’s skin crawl and maybe you’re one of them. Thanksgiving in the US is three weeks away and maybe you feel anything but thankful. Christmas is a little over seven weeks and perhaps you feel anything but jolly. You wonder how some people are so freaking happy during the holidays while others are miserable. You want to be one of the thankful, but right now, you’re one of the stressed. That’s part of the reason I began 30 Days of Thanks every day of November. It makes me look at life differently and it can do the same for you.

How do you respond to challenges?

Believe it or not, everyone has challenges. Some rise to them. Some whine through them and some run from them entirely. The problem with whining and running is that nothing changes. The same challenges show up over and over until we figure out how to master them. Have you ever noticed that? I think that is especially true during the holidays. We envision a perfect holiday, and then we look at our finances, our home or our relationships and realize perfection is out of reach, and that sends us spiraling downward emotionally. No one is challenge free, but how we approach the challenge can be the difference between a holiday season of peace, joy and thanks and one of stress and angst.

What is failure?

Difference good day bad dayI understand failure, stress and angst. It took me three tries to write my book Happiest Holidays after years of learning how NOT to do the holidays. Am I a failure? Some might say yes, but the vision for the book got bigger each time I attempted writing it, so I postponed it. Other books got written instead, and I honed my holiday skills. That’s real life. I give thanks for it, and the book is better because of it.

The blessing of challenges

Sometimes, our greatest gifts come from challenges we face and show up as compassion and gratitude later. We face our own challenges and then look at others facing the same challenge with grace and thanks that we can help them. That doesn’t mean you have to dive down into others’ suffering. It means you understand. The holiday blues can be a short stop on the journey instead of somewhere you unpack and roll around in the muck. You can rise above them to have an incredible holiday season filled with hope and thanks. To help those who want to boost their holiday joy, I created a list to improve your mood and avoid the abyss this holiday season.  Sign up below for my email list to get support every week to have a better holiday and for reminders like the ones below.

Ways to Give Thanks this Holiday Season

  1. Take care of yourself. I know you’re sick of hearing it, but listen up. Give thanks for a shower, for having in nice clothes, for makeup or nail polish that makes you feel pretty.  Be grateful for enough water to drink and healthy food to eat and maybe even for the food that isn’t so healthy .
  2. Meditate. Take a few minutes or even a few breaths to pay attention to your body, mind and spirit, and be thankful for that break, no matter how small. Focus on your breath and relaxing your shoulders and releasing tension from your forehead, your jaw, your neck and your back. It’s a simple exercise of breathing and paying attention.
  3. Listen to happy music. If you’re not sure what that music is, think of movies you like, especially those from your childhood and look for the soundtrack. Then you can appreciate where you and where you’ve been.
  4. Perform an act of kindness. Rake your neighbor’s leaves while they’re gone. Bake cupcakes for someone. Put $20 in an envelope and anonymously drop it into a needy family’s mailbox. Make soup for a sick friend. Don’t have a sick friend? Make soup and freeze if for when you do have a sick friend. Send a gift card anonymously to someone who needs a pick me up. Write a thank you note to someone who positively affected your life. When you do a kindness for someone who cannot pay you back, you create ways for others to give thanks as well.
  5. Become a gracious receiver. In our culture, we have this idea that we must give more than we receive, and it wears us out. We have this saying that it is better to give than to receive, but if we aren’t willing to receive, how can anyone give? If you don’t allow others the opportunity to give, you keep them from becoming better. Stop it! Be willing to receive so you can find out that people care. They really, really care. Start with compliments. The next time someone compliments you resist the urge to negate it. If someone compliments your look, thank them and tell them how nice it is of them to say that. Leave it at that or repay the compliment with one for them. If someone compliments your talent, say thanks and tell them you’re glad they enjoyed it. Don’t mention flaws or mistakes. Let that person help you be joyful and inspire you to be grateful. People like to make others feel good. Let them!
  6. Indulge in a guilty pleasure. Love popcorn? Pop some. Love sappy, chick flicks? Watch one. Love being creative? Paint, write, create. Schedule time to do what brings you joy. If you parent young children, watch them sleep for two minutes. Listen to them breathe. When my boys were little, nothing brought me more joy than rocking my children to sleep at night because of the gift of watching them drift off to wherever boys go to dream, of listening to their peaceful breathing and of thankfully having that peaceful moment. If your children are older like mine, you can go sit in their room and remember the best of times with them.
  7. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I think this quote by Gandhi is magical. If you want the world to be a kinder place, be a kinder person and guess what? The world is a kinder place because of you. If you want the world to be filled with love, be a more loving person, and you have made your own wish come true. It goes hand in hand with treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated, and the best part is that you don’t need anyone else to change to make you happy.
  8. Stop being offended and taking things personally. This is one I still work on. Someone wrote something I considered mean on Facebook recently. Imagine that. It appeared to be a response to something I said, and I wondered if it was a veiled insult. You see, I am generally a happy, go lucky person. I believe that there is more good in this world than bad. I believe in the intrinsic goodness of human beings, that we must be taught and conditioned to be fearful and filled with hate. When you believe that and let people know it, they have some interesting responses. The first and most insulting is that I am stupid and uninformed. The other is that I have no problems. Honestly, the Facebook post I referred to suggested both and actually inspired me to write this. So it doesn’t matter whether that post was intended to insult or offend me.  Only I can decide if that happens, and today I choose to be thankful for the inspiration.
  9. Live differently. If you don’t like your life, change it or change you. What if you or a family member had a very real chance of not making it through the day? Would you continue to act and think the way you do? If not, become the person you would be if you knew your time was limited because guess what? It is. Put the petty crap aside and get to living and loving better. You will still have issues but your molehills of cluttered garages, toast crumbs in the butter and piles of laundry stay molehills instead of blowing up into huge, stupid mountains. Have you ever thought your mountains might be someone else’s molehills? Are your mountains really mountains? I remember holiday seasons when I barely had enough money to buy gifts for my children. They were the most creative times I ever had finding gifts that would bring them joy and keep our family afloat financially. Perhaps the greatest thing I ever heard was that Jesus only got three gifts, why do your children need any more than that? A sobering thought indeed.
  10. Take the focus off of what you “have” to do and put it on who and how you want to be. You will approach everything differently. Clean up your home to create a peaceful space. Buy gifts to bless others instead of checking names off a list.

I hope you find peace, joy, love and a reason to give thanks every day of this season. Will there still be issues? Of course. Will people still get under your skin? Probably, but hopefully not as much or as badly. This season is about you having your best holiday season so far. That’s what I wish for you not only for the next several weeks, but for the rest of your life. Want a step by step guide to get you through the holidays? Click here to purchase my book Happiest Holidays on Amazon. If you haven’t signed up for our email list, do that and look for the awesome freebies to come during the holidays and beyond. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

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