5 Tools to Help Us Give Thanks in Hard Times
Is there anything to be thankful for this Thanksgiving 2020?
If you finding it hard to tap into that heart of gratitude this season…you're so not alone.
It can feel difficult to say “thanks” this holiday season when:
- Social distancing prevents us from gathering together and sharing meals with loved ones as we have in years past
- Our day-to-day shelter-in-place lives feel a bit “ho-hum,” depressing, and lonely
- Our nation seems to be more divided than united
- We're not sure when this dreary season will finally be over
I (we) could go on and on about how 2020 has been hard, discouraging, and ho-hum. It's perhaps a year we'd rather forget.
However, I encourage us to not get hung up on all the things we have lost and lack…the things we want back…the things we wish were different…
Instead, let's intentionally choose to give THANKS and focus on all we're grateful for this season. Despite the “pandemic suck.”
Own What's Real, Focus on What's True
NOW ONE QUICK POINT OF CLARIFICATION on gratitude.
I'm not saying we need to "choose happy" and disown the feelings we're actually feeling.
It's important for us to be honest about the way we actually feel. It's vital to “get real” with the hard things. And THERE'S NO SHAME in owning what's truly bothering us.
My point is: we just don't need to stay there.
Our pains, hardships, and all the things “going wrong” in our lives don't need to be our main focus.
Instead, here's what I'm suggesting…
LET'S BE HONEST about what's really going on inside: the feelings of lack, despair, discouragement...whatever…that are muddying up our insides.
BUT THEN LET'S SEEK GOD to help redirect our thoughts to focus on, and pay attention to, the things that we have to be grateful for.
Not out of guilt-driven obligation that tells us that we SHOULD.
But because it's truly, without a doubt, for your own good.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
- Philippians 4:6-7
Our Focus Becomes Our Reality
There's a reason the Bible stresses giving thanks.
Gratitude is a powerful weapon that helps us fight off things like sadness, depression, a scarcity mindset, and emotional numbness.
Naming the things we are thankful for also helps us:
- Shift our perspectives from scarcity to abundance
- Train our minds to search for the good, rather than grumbling over the bad
- Embrace life with hopeful expectation, knowing God is in the business of recycling purpose out of pain
Friend, perspective is everything.
If we choose to zoom in on our pain and problems, we'll only find more suffering.
But if we choose to set our sights on the gifts we have to be grateful for each day, we'll reap more peace, joy, and thankfulness.
November Top 5: Tools to Help You Give Thanks
We're so much better equipped to handle difficult circumstances when our hearts are full with gratitude and thanksgiving.
So for this month's picks, I wanted to focus in on 5 tools to help you foster more gratitude.
FOR THE MIND
#1 - Gratitude Practice
Now, I get it.
A gratitude journaling practice may sound like a bit of a drag...perhaps a bit "woo-woo" for you. But Friend, trust me. This. Stuff. Actually. Works.
Studies show that folks who consistently practice gratitude experience reduced stress, less aggression, improved self-esteem, and better health.
And writing for as little as 20 minutes a day for 4 days in a row can measurably improve your mood.
So why not try it out? Why not see what happens? Set aside some time each day to name 3 (or more) things you're grateful for. Maybe even write out.
Here's a FREE copy of my Daily Gratitude Journal to help you get started. (Click on the button below to nab a copy.)
FOR THE HEART
#2 - Self-Compassion Meditations
When our insides feel scribbly, it's important to give ourselves some extra tender-loving care. One tool I like to reach for to sort through my emotional clutter is meditation. Kristin Neff's self-compassion guided meditations are top notch.
Quick note: some of these exercises are on the lengthy side--which may be a stretch. If you're new to meditation, perhaps grab one of the shorter ones to start…or try out the longer ones in smaller chunks to cut yourself a break.
FOR THE SOUL
#3 - Clouds
“Don't wait for tomorrow to live for today.”
That's the thanks-filled message you'll walk away with after watching this film.
This movie, based on a true story, is about a 17-year old boy (Zach Sobiech) who didn't let a terminal prognosis come between his dreams or living out the rest of his days with purpose.
This story will fill you with gratitude as it highlights this important truth: each day is precious and full of opportunity. And your story matters a whole heck of a lot.
FOR THE BODY
#4 - Olive & June Nail Polish
The other week, we discussed using the mirror to help practice body gratitude.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let's revisit this exercise. Each morning as you get ready, make a point of naming 3 things you appreciate about your body.
I also suggest using a soothing-smelling lotion to show your body some extra care. As you hydrate, give thanks. For areas that are more triggering for you, focus your attention to how that part serves you (i.e., what it does for you), rather than focusing on what you dislike.
One lotion I love to use is this Ro's Argan Body Conditioner by Lush. (Use in the shower, rinse, and pat dry.)
JUST FOR FUN
#5 - Sweet Potato Casserole
In the St. Germain household, we're not tied to a traditional Thanksgiving feast. We love to switch it up and keep things interesting with new foodie finds.
That said, there's one side dish we simply won't pass up: sweet potato casserole. This dish is a more recent find: one we stumbled upon just a few years ago. But ever since we tried it, it's sweet potato casserole or bust. 😉
Sean plays master chef on this one in our kitchen. So he may tweak this recipe a bit.
But here's a link to the recipe on Foodnetwork to get you started. Play around with it as you please.