For many of us, the holidays are truly “the most wonderful time of the year,” filled with love, laughter, and traditions. We get to leave behind the stresses of our daily grind, see our family and friends, have some good food, and ultimately enjoy the holiday season. Coming together for Thanksgiving around a delicious roasted turkey or opening presents Christmas morning around the tree – these are the memories that can last a lifetime. I remember waking up on Christmas morning when I was young and seeing all the stockings lined up on the couch (they were too full to hang back up on the mantle). I was so excited because, by tradition, I was allowed to open my stocking first with my sister before waking my parents up for presents. Having these experiences, even if they’re only memories now, can make you feel extremely grateful. And let’s be honest, there’s always something to be grateful for during the holidays, especially when you take time to notice. So, today, we will discuss 5 ways to show gratitude during the holidays so that you can be your best self and live your best life.
1. 12 Days of Gratitude
I’m sure, for the most part, we’ve all heard the holiday carol “12 Days of Christmas.” It goes a little something like, “on the twelfth-day of Christmas, my true love gave me to me,” and then you count down the days back to one. Well, what about trying 12 Days of Gratitude this year instead? Essentially, rather than adding in the turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree, you’re going to integrate something that you are grateful for each day. For example, one of the days you might be grateful to spend more time with your family during the holidays, or another you might be thankful for the amazing food you get to share. Either way, engaging in the 12 Days of Gratitude is an excellent practice to begin showing gratitude – and it might even spark a new yearly tradition. It could be especially great if you have children because kids, in particular, are incredibly creative and love making new things up. So, by using the 12 Days of Christmas jingle as a template for the 12 Days of Gratitude practice, you can begin teaching your kids to look for what they are grateful for in everyday life. This exercise reminds me of a coloring book where the page has the lines already, and the kids are meant to fill it in with individual color and life. The best part about 12 Days of Gratitude is you can integrate whatever YOU might be grateful for at the time. You don’t have to follow the mold of other people; this is just meant to be a practice in learning to show your gratitude. Something like the 12 Days of Gratitude can get your mindset shifted in the right direction during the holidays so that you can begin molding yourself into your best version of yourself and truly love the life you live.
2. Start a Gratitude Journal
If the 12 Days of Gratitude suggestion is maybe a little too extra for you, perhaps try starting a gratitude journal. Completing a gratitude journal entry each day is a great habit to get into year-round, but especially during the holidays. The holidays are a time when there is an ‘anything goes’ mentality and therefore having a gratitude journal can really help anchor you in the ‘here and now.’ How does a gratitude journal work? In the mornings, you literally write down five things you are grateful for that day, and that’s it – whatever five things first come to your mind. Does it sound a little too simple? Well, that’s because the simple act of writing down your gratitude is extremely powerful. Writing these points down signals to your brain what is and isn’t essential – so that it can show you more of the things you find important. For example, if you write down that you are thankful for your family, it tells your brain your family is important to you, and it will find little ways throughout the day to reiterate that to you. Whether that’s an extra-long hug from your grandma or the huge smile plastered on your sibling’s face when they see you – your brain will pick out these instances now that you’ve told it to pay attention. This is the powerful thing about gratitude and intention is that by integrating this routine, you can retrain your brain to look for positive cues in everyday life and begin to mold yourself into your best self and live your best life.
3. Reach Out or Send a Card
Sometimes no matter how many things we write down or sing about being grateful for, we can feel disconnected from those we care about if they’re not around during the holidays. In these instances, a great way to show gratitude for those you love is by personally reaching out or sending a card. I know they say that the “phone works both ways,” but sometimes it’s about opening that line of communication, and often, you’ll be grateful you did reach out. You never know; the person on the other end of the line might be feeling just as isolated and alone, and hearing from you could really brighten their day. On another note, one tradition that many people do is send out a Christmas card with a yearly update on all the goings-on and activities from the previous year. Sending out cards in this way is especially great for people with kids who want to update everyone but don’t have the time to reach out to everyone individually. Personally, my family used to do this for years (particularly when we were younger and had lots to update friends and relatives about). Nowadays, my boyfriend’s grandparents still do this tradition each and every year. Taking a few minutes to send a card, whether it’s a general Christmas card like I’ve described here or a personalized one to someone special, shows your gratitude and thoughtfulness towards the person. Furthermore, taking the time to reach out or send a card not only shows you are putting in an effort, but it allows you to embrace gratitude in your life so that you may work towards molding yourself into your best version of yourself.
4. Share New Experiences
Another great way to show gratitude during the holidays is by sharing new experiences or creating new traditions. Just like the 12 Days of Gratitude suggestion, here I’m proposing to keep a lookout for new things that you and your family enjoy that could potentially turn into a tradition each year. For example, one of our first Christmas’ where my parents now live, we went down to a nearby pond that was cleared off to skate and play some ice hockey. This was quite a novel experience for us as we had just moved from the city to this new rural acreage and hadn’t played much pond hockey at the time. After sharing that new experience over a decade ago, we now still go down to that pond each Christmas Eve to get a skate in during our holiday break. It’s something we love to do, and honestly, it makes sense for us since we are all hockey players (except for my dad, who’s the hot chocolate guy LOL). For another family, it might make sense to create a different tradition. For example, another thing that my family and I do each year is get together before Christmas to decorate the house and bake cookies. I feel like this is a prevalent tradition among many households, and it really brings everyone together to enjoy new experiences and be grateful for one another. Sometimes it can be challenging to tell people that you appreciate them or are thankful for them, but by sharing your time and creating new traditions, you can show them your feelings through your actions. Ultimately, taking some time to find shared experiences that create fond memories and tried and true traditions are crucial so that you may show gratitude throughout the holidays and truly feel like your best self.
5. Give Where You Can
One way to show gratitude during the holidays that doesn’t revolve around you, your family, or other loved ones is by giving back where you can. Whether that means donating some extra non-perishable food items at the grocery store for those in need or organizing a mini toy drive for a local woman’s shelter; there are so many ways to show your gratitude and give back to your community during the holiday season. One example of this is my mother. She probably wouldn’t want me writing too much about this (because she did it out of the kindness of her heart, NOT for recognition), but my mom has begun to make a tradition of basically ‘sponsoring’ a different family for Christmas each year. So I remember the first year I helped her deliver everything to this family, and they cried with gratitude when they saw how much effort we (aka my mom) had put into their Christmas package. Without going into too much detail, this family was facing a hard time with piling up medical bills and not much in the budget leftover for Christmas expenses (in other words, zero). So, that year my mom made sure they had presents under the tree for the kids and food on their table throughout the holidays. She also made sure the parents got special gifts and gift cards to Walmart for anything else they might need. This experience I got to be a part of still touches my heart to this day, and it makes me proud that my mom has now created a tradition out of this. Of course, giving back where you can doesn’t have to be as elaborate as this. Helping out your neighbor with their Christmas lights or bringing the snowplow driver a cup of hot coffee accomplishes the same kind of sentiment. Overall, giving back where you can is an excellent way to fill your cup with gratitude during the holiday season as you work towards molding yourself into the best version of yourself and living your best life.
Many of us look forward to the holidays as a time to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy some time with our family. We all have our own traditions that we like to engage in each season, and I hope you were fondly reminded of some of those as you read about my family and our traditions. Sometimes if you’re not used to showing your gratitude and appreciation, it can feel awkward. That’s why I suggest trying to implement gratitude into your life in various ways during the holidays. For some, it might work to try out 12 Days of Gratitude, while for someone else they might want to keep their gratitude a little more private in a personal journal. Of course, one of the best ways to show gratitude to those you care about during the holidays is to reach out or even send a card to let them know you’re thinking about them. Furthermore, finding new experiences to share with your loved ones that can turn into long-standing traditions and learning to give back where you can are also lessons in showing gratitude during the holidays. Even though there’s always a lot going on during the holidays, finding time to express your gratitude will leave you feeling fulfilled and more actively appreciative of your surroundings. Ultimately, integrating some of the techniques we have discussed here to show gratitude during the holidays is crucial so that you may fire your old self to create your new self while remembering Life’s Short, Love the Life You Live!