Gratitude and Appreciation: Include Them in Holiday Planning!
At this time of the year we begin to turn our attention to the upcoming holidays and all that they mean. Of course, there is the busyness, shopping and increased social commitments. But there is also a deeper current that flows through this time of year. It seems that many of us feel that current and yearn to connect with it as it seems to promise a more fulfilling state of being than the one we generally get caught up in during this time.
At the first of these holidays, Thanksgiving, our thoughts turn to menu planning, travel and seating arrangements, invitations and how to get it all done in the midst of an already busy life! The deeper feelings of gratitude and appreciation symbolized by this day get a passing nod in media hype, a brief grace said at the dinner table or in a lament about not having the time to pay attention to those aspects of life! There are many reasons for this but perhaps the key issue is a lack of understanding regarding the real influence of these feelings and so they are relegated to the airy-fairy file.
Gratitude and Appreciation Have Real Physiological Effects
Gratitude and appreciation are emotions, feeling states that have been studied at length and have been shown to profoundly impact our physical, spiritual and emotional health. When we experience these emotions our heart rhythms change, our nervous system becomes more regulated and our whole physiology behaves differently—all in the direction of health and more efficient functioning.
A Simple Strategy to Increase Gratitude and Appreciation
Asking the right questions...
What do I have to be grateful for?
What in my life do I really appreciate?
Remember to think broadly. We live life moment by moment. Big awards, recognition, and fame are not daily fare. Dropping grandiose expectations can open our eyes to simpler things and put us in touch with the deeper rhythms of life. These rhythms are where there is more feeling and connection to the real stuff of being human. That it not to say that the bigger events or accomplishments are wrong, only that too much attention in that direction can result in an inner disconnect that leaves us empty, longing and entrenched in pretense rather than in the authenticity that leads to a sense of wholeness and contentment.
So think about the warmth of the sun, the crispness of the air, the beauty of the sky. Make it a game to see how many instances of beauty you can find in a day. Where can you find the touch of peace? What do you see that warms your heart? How can you experience peace and heart expansion from the inside out rather than waiting for the outer world to present them?
Before you go to sleep tonight identify five things that made you happy, feel complete or that you appreciated. Remember to count yourself things you value about YOU!
Use your memory to call up images of times when you felt grateful…play those over and over instead of the wouldas, couldas, shouldas that tend to rumble around in our minds!
Make placing your attention on gratitude a habit and you may begin to notice that a subtle inner peace is growing and has brought you “home for the holidays”!