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The Pressure to be Happy for the Holidays

The Pressure to be Happy for the Holidays

Dec 9, 2015

For every song on the radio filled with cheer and jingling bells, there’s another filled with loneliness and longing.  It’s good to know I’m not alone… Starting in the weeks leading up to Halloween, the calendar fills up with every seasonal activity imaginable. We are constantly reminded how “precious” this time is with our children, and urged to create Pintrest worthy family traditions. Pressure builds to make sure the family experiences ALL the joy of the season: decorations, shopping, tree lighting, Christmas concerts, school shows, baking, visiting with family, crafts, on and on. We push ourselves to accomplish all of our “normal” activities AND the additional activities of the season, and do it all while grinning wildly from ear to ear—lest we be called a humbug.  For some of us, it feels a little like moving through molasses.  Every activity requires twice as much energy (and leaves a lingering sticky residue). A while back, I wrote about authentic happiness. Not everyone’s happiness looks the same.  TV seduces us into thinking true happiness is a bubbling and bursting, a new-car-with-huge-red-ribbon kind of glee.  Some people have a happiness quotient that is more of a simmer, save for those actual lotto-winning moments, and it is much more quiet. Like our bodies, happiness comes in all shapes and sizes.  We think something is wrong when we don’t feel what we think we should feel.  We tell other people to, “SMILE!!”, as if that is the only way to walk around in the world.  There is a difference between being unhappy and not-as-happy. Make this distinction in your solitude.  Appreciate the moments you have when your child says something magical about the season, when a great friend is in town for a visit, when your favorite movie comes on TV. It’s also perfectly reasonable to appreciate the quiet of the season: the glow of the lights when your house has turned down for the night, the warm smell of baking, the tears shed over people who have passed. We don’t give ourselves, or each other, enough opportunity to express an emotion other than jubilation this time of year.  There is room for reflection, remembrance, and reverence.  It is the pressure...

Finding Gratitude In The Dark

Finding Gratitude In The Dark

Dec 4, 2015

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” –Melody Beattie Most of us have heard about the benefits of gratitude. It can boost your immune system and decrease stress, according to Elizabeth Heubeck from WebMD. We know that practicing gratitude leads to a happier life and the feelings of abundance. What happens, though, when we can’t find gratitude? When we are trapped in darkness, how can we find a spark of thankfulness? Tune into one. small. thing. That’s it really. The practice begins in finding an appreciation for one small thing. Then the next. Then the next thing after that. Psychology Today posted a great article from Toni Bernhard, J.D. about moving forward when we find our gratitude “in short supply.” She says, “Instead of trying to talk myself into big gratitude—a lecture that is always packed with judgmental “shoulds” and “oughts”—I decided to think small.” Bernhard shares this example: Thinking big: “I should be grateful every single day that I live in a nice house with my own backyard.” Thinking small: “That’s a pretty little bird in the yard.” By thinking small, we tune into the TRUE feeling behind the sentiment. We can say we are grateful for the roof over our head because we feel we should. Our intellect reminds us of the atrocities of the world, and how we should feel grateful it is not happening to us. But sometimes that is too big for us to tap into. We can think it but not actually feel it. In those circumstances, reach out for something you can feel. For me, it starts with my children. I can immediately tap into honest feeling when it involves my girls. The practice of gratitude has to start somewhere. As with all things, the skill becomes stronger with practice over time. Seek the first, little thing you can find to be grateful for, and really feel the gratitude...

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