Supermarkets are packed, a turkey has been ceremonially pardoned, and holiday travel is at its peak. My inbox is full of “Happy Thanksgiving, we’re so grateful for you” emails from organizations I haven’t heard from in ages. Social media feeds hum with photos of happy, perfect-looking families with quotes urging us toward gratitude and thanks.
It’s Thanksgiving here in the US.
Navigating feelings that don’t lean toward unbridled gratitude at this “most wonderful time of the year” can be especially difficult, even when our sadness, anger, and fear are normal and justified.
If we can find and feel even a glimmer of gratitude, though, there’s evidence it can help us grow resilience to better navigate life’s inevitable challenges.
When Gratitude is Hard
Parades. Football. Running a 5K. Happy family gatherings with so much food. Tryptophan-induced naps on cozy sofas. Pop culture and social media are packed with Thanksgiving images like that, and many of us are blessed to experience those and more.
Sometimes, though, Thanksgiving is different.
It can be hard to feel grateful over a turkey sandwich in a hospital cafeteria between ICU visits with a dying father, home alone with a mom in late-stage dementia, working on the holiday, or when there’s no money for a meal let alone air travel.
And yet, finding even a glimmer of gratitude during difficult situations – and practicing gratitude on an ongoing basis – can help us better navigate tough times. Here are some reasons why:
- Grateful people are better able to reframe problems and take steps to actively deal with them, and also less likely to get stuck by blaming themselves for and disengaging from challenges.
- Barbara Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build model asserts that positive emotions help us think in more innovative and creative ways, thus building resources to draw upon in difficult times.
- Grateful people not only are more likely to reach out to others in times of stress; they also benefit more from social support when they receive it.
My own experience has recently shown me that practicing gratitude in hindsight, 34 years after that turkey sandwich in the hospital cafeteria, can boost positivity and overall well-being, too.
Look for the Glimmers
Whether your holiday celebrations look like a modern-day Norman Rockwell painting or are the farthest thing ever from a Hallmark Channel movie, I hope you’ll find a way to conjure up at least a glimmer of gratitude this holiday season.
If even a glimmer feels like a stretch, remind yourself that those times when gratitude doesn’t come as naturally to us might be exactly when we need it most.
I help professionals who want to make a difference through their work but feel stuck by something in their work that’s no longer working. Book a consultation to learn more about how I can help you navigate the pace of change in today’s world of work with more ease and joy.
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