Between fighting the crowds to buy gifts, traveling to see family members, and figuring out how to cater to both your nephew who’s on the Paleo Diet and your vegan sister-in-law in the same family meal, the holidays can be the most stressful time of the year, even though they’re supposed to be the happiest. Add in the shorter days of winter, less time for exercise and sleep, endless temptation to overeat and overimbibe, and the holidays can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to your well-being. So what can you do?
Focus on gratitude. Sound simple? It is, but it isn’t always easy. As I’ve discussed before, it’s possible to crowd out negative feelings with positive ones in the same way a dietitian might suggest eating an apple or some celery before heading to a party to avoid overdoing it at the buffet (bonus tip!). It’s nearly impossible to feel grateful and stressed out at the same time. It’s tempting, however, to get distracted from the moment of gratitude by whatever it is that’s stressing you out right then: be it lost luggage, burned stuffing, or a family member espousing political beliefs you find idiotic.
So when you find yourself getting heated, slow down, take a deep breath, and find a reason to be grateful. Lost luggage? Be grateful you and your family arrived safely. Holiday meal gone awry? Be grateful that you have enough to eat in the first place, and for challenging family recipes that keep us humble in the kitchen and in life. Family member on the other side of the political spectrum? Instead of spending half the meal in a sparring match, try simply saying, “Isn’t it wonderful that we live in a country where everyone has the right to express their own viewpoints?” and believing it.
You don’t need to wait until the moment of crisis to get your gratitude going. What better time than now to incorporate a gratitude ritual into your daily routine? I have one that I perform every morning, but you can do what works for you. Perhaps you set a timer prompting yourself to ask what you’re grateful for or keep a list of things you’re grateful for by your bedside to look at first thing when you wake up. (mindbodygreen has a great list of creative ways to get grateful.) Just find something that suits you, and you’ll feel better immediately.
Consider this: there’s no better time than now to start being grateful.