The Importance of Being Thankful

With the holidays upon us it’s important to remember during this time of year filled with joy, happiness and family gatherings, ironically this is also the time of year when rates of depression sore. We need to be on guard for ourselves and those around us and observe what’s going on in our and their emotional lives. A daily dose of thankfulness can keep these feelings in check.

The holidays can be a time of extremes.
Amidst the decorations and blinking lights are projected images of family togetherness, laughter and happiness. Everyone is joyful and freely giving of love and acceptance, offering warm embraces of smiles and hugs. Everywhere we turn, from TV commercials, social media, and stores wanting us to buy more and more, it’s easy to unconsciously slip into the feeling that this is what the holidays are “supposed” to be about. We are “supposed” to have the family that freely gives their love and accepts you with open arms, no strings attached. Everyone is “supposed” to be healthy and good-looking. Every family gathering is “supposed” to look like a Norman Rockwell dinner. Every dinner is “supposed” to turn out perfectly. But reality rarely matches what’s supposed to be.

Comments are misinterpreted.
Commitments aren’t kept. Family and friends are rude and even mean. Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t come out as planned. The picture of “what is” doesn’t match the picture of “what it’s supposed to be”.

We see – and feel – what we don’t have.
Our daily reality doesn’t fit the image that we’ve been sold. And if we’re not careful, we unconsciously open the door to feelings of sadness, loneliness, and isolation, all leading to depression that sets in. We find ourselves stuck in the land of extremes.

The holidays call on our skills of emotional regulation, of “putting things into perspective” and “seeing the glass half full instead of half empty”. Sometimes clichés make a lot of sense, and this time of the year there’s no embarrassment in dusting a few of them off and reminding ourselves of their simple truths.

Wayne Dyer challenged us:
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”.   And that “cognitive shift” is fueled in part by looking at what you do have instead of what you don’t have. Being thankful for your family, even though they can be ungrateful and judgmental; being thankful for the limited time you have, even though you wish you had more; being thankful for the health you do have, even though you and those around us aren’t completely healthy; being thankful for the lights that do shine, rather than the ones that are burnt out.

Emotions are neither right or wrong, they just are.
It all depends on what we do with them. Be careful of being pulled to the extremes, of being deceived that you’re supposed to have a perfect holiday season full of joy, happiness, and well-timed, perfectly cooked meals. Chances are pretty high that sometime this season you’ll feel disappointed, insulted, ignored, and unappreciated. That’s fine. It’s what you do with those emotions that’s important. Emotions are like waves that wash over us. And just like waves they’ll recede. And you’ll still be standing.  Acknowledge your feelings, “take it in stride”, “don’t let it get to you”, and “roll with the punches”.

Sharon Murphy, LMFT
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Please check back for a starting date for her new program “Equine Grace”
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