Why and How To Be Grateful This Holiday Season

This blog is dedicated to my mom who for me is the epitome of gratitude, resilience and inspiration

I often emphasize the importance of gratitude in my Leadership trainings particularly in trainings that are centered on resilience and stress. Gratitude is that one habit which, when you corporate in your daily life, can make all the difference. It’s a practice that can eliminate half of your stress straight away. Negativity and unhappiness can be infectious and contagious as can be happiness, positivity, and gratitude. When you are grateful, you attract positive energy all around you and vice versa.
In my blog on 11 revitalizing stress busters for working professionals, I recommend starting a gratitude journal. Gratitude journals serve many purposes, some of which include encouraging calm, lowering stress levels and giving new perspectives. Gratitude journals enable you to wake up every morning and be thankful for even the less obvious blessings. This type of journaling, if taken up regularly can prove to be an effective stress-busting activity in itself. Here are some helpful tips to maintain a gratitude journal

1. Write down at least one thing that you are thankful for each day
2. Decorate the journal or keep it simple, the choice really belongs to you but ensure that the journal is kept exclusive for the purpose it was made to cater in the first place
3. Keep the journal on your nightstand so that you can refer to it before sleeping and/or glance at it first thing in the morning. Timing is your choice. I prefer thinking and writing in the journal right before I doze off while other times I wake up and complete my entry. You don’t have to journal every day either. Every alternate day could be just as good.
4. You don’t have to write long sentences but if that’s what you prefer then go ahead and write as much as you want. However, how much you write is not a criterion for maintaining a gratitude journal. It could even be a few words only.

Being positive and expressing gratitude even in the face of adversity and heartbreak is something which I have learned in its truest essence from my mom. Many years ago, I distinctly remember how her one response triggered my journaling habit. I was feeling despondent and I had called her for comfort and solace like I usually do when I find myself breaking down or giving up. And that day, she said something very powerful to me, something which has stuck with me ever since…‘You know, Hira,’ she said grimly, ‘you have a lot of things to be grateful for in your life and let me remind you, you got most of these things without even asking. So if you can be blessed with things that you never really imagined nor prayed for, then how is it possible that God will not give you the things that you are praying and longing for? Of course, he will- just have faith, wait for the right time and continue being thankful’
There was something about that conversation which stirred my soul and got me thinking. It’s true-pain easily overshadows joy; we are quick to point out what didn’t work or isn’t working in our lives. What went well, however, takes time to notice because the latter is most likely something we commonly take for granted. And this is exactly where gratitude journals come in and help. They remind you to take into account all the good things in your life. Yes, there are times when unfulfilled prayers make us stressed and heartbroken.
But what about the numerous other times when we been blessed beyond measure and bestowed with blessings that we never asked for or prayed for but we still received? Blessings that might seem pretty ordinary to us but may mean the world to someone else or blessings that go unnoticed because we are so busy counting the ones that we don’t’ have?

Another gratitude practice that has positively impacted my life and which I have my mom to thank for is a family ritual that we have been following since years, on celebrations, festivals or any holidays, especially New Year’s Eve. New Year celebrations like all other events used to be big at our place. However, amidst all the celebrations, my mom always had this one rule which she expected all of us to abide by. We could enjoy and celebrate as much as we could but wherever we were, as the clock struck 12 we should take a few moments to offer our Thanks To the Divine and say our prayers. Those 5 to 7 minutes should be our time with the Supreme Being, uninterrupted and free from all worldly desires. The prayer comprised of two elements; being thankful for the past year and praying earnestly for the new one. As the trend of the new year parties began to grow and in came fireworks and other forms of welcoming the new year, being the understanding woman that she is, my mom became more flexible and owing to her children’s FOMO, she then asked us to do this ritual in a different way; only this time it should be twice; before stepping out for any celebration and after coming back. Well, being the super obedient daughter that I was and still am, I always did exactly as I was told, mostly because mom said so and partially because it felt right and not much to ask for. Years later, I still do this and to this date, my siblings follow this practice too, in their own ways. But to be honest, the importance and essence of this ritual are understood by me now more than ever. In a world full of tragedies and despair, it’s easy to lose hope and point out how horrible the previous year has been. But this is how life is; there are bad things and there are good things. If you start the New Year on a note of gratitude and acknowledgment, you will set yourself off on the right foot for the rest of the year.

If, in a world full of tragedies where millions are homeless and displaced, starved and famished, terrorized and in pain, you have a roof over your head, clean water to drink, a comfortable bed to sleep in and you don’t have to worry about your next meal then consider yourself blessed, very blessed.

All across, I see people blaming and belittling this past year and being regretful and angry about all the sad things that have happened. I feel bad for the tragedies too but let’s take a moment and also be thankful for all the good things that have happened to us, this year. No matter what, I am sure there must be at least three blessings that you owe gratitude for. Even try journaling, perhaps? Let’s begin the New Year with hope, positivity, and lots of prayers and most importantly, by being thankful.

Be thankful when it is the hardest as gratitude can be your most powerful weapon against disappointments and heartbreak. Be thankful that you are alive and well. Be thankful for your family and friends. Be thankful for your health. Be thankful for the roof over your head. Be thankful for the joy of freshly cooked meals and even refrigerated ones. Be thankful for water, air, and nature. Be thankful for your warm clothes and that warm bed you snuggle in at night. Be thankful for your struggles too as they made you stronger. And last but not the least, be thankful that tomorrow is a new day filled with hope and positivity, and with a new day, comes your chance to start afresh with renewed faith and determination.

As the holiday festival and the New Year draws close, remember the deprived ones and be grateful because it’s gratitude that will eventually get us through and make us appreciate what we do have.
Don’t forget that every day you have a choice. The choice to wake up happy and content or to wake up complaining, complaining about what you don’t have enough of- (Not) enough money, enough choices, enough opportunities, enough love, enough grades etc. If you chose the latter then that’s how life will always be for you-not enough However, when you are thankful, content and happy for the countless blessings that you do have, that’s how life will be for you- content and happy.
So close your eyes, take a deep breath and repeat after me ‘I Am Grateful, I Am Very Grateful For What I Have Today. I Acknowledge the Wonderful Blessings in My Life and Today, I Choose To Be Happy and Thankful’ Say it like you mean it and see how it changes everything for you.

Hira Ali is Founder of Advancing Your Potential & Revitalize and Rise She is an Executive Career Coach, Leadership Trainer, Motivational Speaker, Writer, Podcaster, & NLP Practitioner. She tweets @advancingyou and can be contacted at hiraali@advancingyourpotential.com Or via her Twitter, LinkedIn, Insta or Facebook profiles

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