How to Reduce Stress this Holiday with Gratitude

When I was a kid, I loved watching the Muppet Movies.  The year I turned eleven, my mom took my sister and me to see the Muppet’s Christmas Carol.  This was my very first exposure to the classic Dickens story.  I loved Kermit and his little family, and I remember being terrified of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
In the film, Scrooge says to his nephew, “What right how you to be merry?  You’re poor enough.” To which his nephew replies, “What right have you to be dismal?  You’re rich enough.”  I remember thinking about this and wondering why such a rich man could be so unhappy.
This was a beautiful life lesson for me because we didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up.  In fact, that year was the first of several where, according to my step-mom, “Santa Clause went to the Bahamas,” and we all made and received home made presents.  Even though I had tons of things on my Christmas list, I remember absolutely loving seeing what everyone made for me, and I felt that I was rich nonetheless.
 By now, you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘money doesn’t buy happiness.’
Multitudes of books have been written and movies have been filmed about this topic with life lessons for all, should we choose to take them.  While money does buy the necessities and comforts, at this point in my life, I’ve realized that there is so much more to being truly rich than material things.
I’ve met plenty of people with lots of money who are visibly unhappy, who carry anger and resentment on their sleeve.  Shouldn’t the person who has everything, like Scrooge, be happy?  What it comes down to is that people like Scrooge aren’t thankful for all that they have, material or otherwise.  They end up wanting more and more and, even though they have all the money they could possibly ever need, they always feel in a state of lack rather than abundance.  I find myself repelled from these people like the opposing poles of two magnets.
On the other hand, I’ve met many folks who have nothing material to their name and who walk this earth radiating sublime happiness.  These people do not want for anything because they’re happy with what they have.  Their energy is magnetic.  I always feel like I’m being drawn into their tractor beam of peace and joy.
The more I’m around someone who is filled with gratitude, the richer I feel and that’s how I want to live my life.  I want to attract, rather than repel people and I want to make someone’s day brighter.
I think it was easier when I was a kid to feel grateful.  As an adult, life often gets in the way.  I’m busy just like the rest.  Some days the stuff hits the fan and I’m left stressed out, holding the bag of responsibility, and thinking about all the things I have to do before the end of the day.  What it comes down to is those thoughts are focusing on ‘lack’ rather than abundance.
When I focus on my To-Do List rather than focusing first on the Things-I’ve-Accomplished-and-Things-I-Have List, I start to get bogged down with the ‘lack’ mentality and all the riches of my life go out the window for the day.   I thrive on gratitude and without it, everything else becomes harder.  Even mundane daily tasks become huge obstacles.  Focusing on what I lack causes me much more stress throughout the day.  It’s a black hole that I have, in the past, spiraled uncontrollably down into, only to emerge at the end of the day frazzled, depressed, and loaded with anxiety.
I’ve found that when I start my day with gratitude, before the To-Do List takes over, my whole day is brighter and more purposeful with better moods and far less stress.
Now I know that I absolutely have to start my day, every single day, thinking about a few things that I am grateful for having in my life – my husband, my dog, my family, the freedom to travel and see new places while making a living, and whatever else big or small that pops into my head.  I don’t think too hard on it and I just let the thoughts flow for a few minutes.  The more I focus on what I have, the easier it is to cope with any stress or anxiety that may come my way and to get done all the things on my To-Do list.
Once waking with gratitude became a regular part of my day, I realized that I could turn to gratitude more easily throughout the day as a way to deflect negativity or stress.
A friend told me once that she sometimes has to stop, take a deep breath, and count to ten in her mind before reacting to things, otherwise, she may overreact and become angry or stressed.  This resonated with me and I’ve adapted this technique to include counting ten things that I’m grateful for.  I’ve found that this pulls me out of the stress or anxiety and puts me into a more easy going state.
Believe it or not, ‘lack’ takes up space in your mind…Gratitude creates space.
 It’s amazing, too, the space gratitude makes for new possibilities to come into my mind.  A wise teacher once told me that our minds can reach capacity, that we have to get rid of things in order to make more space.  With a daily practice of gratitude, I’ve been able to create so much more in my life than I ever thought I could and it all comes so easily now.
The holidays can be stressful, I know.  This year, when you start to feel stressed, stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, and count ten things you’re grateful for.  
I promise, it will make a world of difference, not only to you, but to the people you come into contact with.  You’ll free up space in your mind for new possibilities to come and you’ll attract other happy, positive, successful people into your life.
Here’s to your Thriving Life!  May you have a peaceful, stress-free, gratitude filled Holiday season!
Cheers,
Laurel
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