Create More Joy, Less Chaos
This is the second article in a series designed to bring you tips to create more joy and less stress this Holiday Season—whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, winter solstice or are just caught up in the flurry of everyone else’s holiday madness.
Extra activities, demands, and obligations this time of year energize some people and stress others. If you are one who is stressed consider these signs of stress overload from HelpGuide.org:
• Constant worrying, or seeing only the negative
• Inability to relax, feeling overwhelmed
• Eating more or less
• Isolating oneself
• Using alcohol or other drugs to relax
While it may seem counter-productive to put one more thing on your to do list this week, taking a few minutes for this activity can help increase your sense of contentment, especially if you practice it regularly over time.
Start today by keeping a gratitude journal—it can be a notebook or a pretty journal just for this purpose.
Why would I tell you to do one more thing if you’re already overloaded? Because research shows that training yourself to be grateful for what is currently in your life is one simple way to increase your happiness and satisfaction, and I want you to feel that instead of constant stress.
Here’s how you do it. Upon wakening or before you go to bed (or even better—both, but hey, I’m realistic. Just start with one or the other), write down 10 things for which you are grateful. If you have trouble thinking of 10, start with five. If you are stuck, start with simple things like: “I am grateful for this bed in which I’ve slept.” “I am grateful for the roof over my head.” “I am grateful there was hot water for the shower this morning.” “I am grateful for my children.” Gradually, you might get to things like “I’m grateful I kept my temper with my son today.” “I’m grateful for my boss.” “I’m grateful for the ability to spend time with family.” Keep it up for at least 30 days and see what you notice.
What’s the science behind why this works? Our minds tend to notice more of what we focus on. For instance, what type of car do you drive? Many people report an increase in the number of vehicles they notice once they drive that vehicle. I often say I had no idea how many silver vans there were in the world until I started driving one. Now I see them everywhere. The same holds true with the gratitude journal. If we spend a few minutes re-focusing our minds on those things for which we are grateful, we begin to see more of those things showing up in our lives. They may have already been there; however, we notice them more, and consequently, feel more content. And that’s something we can all use amongst the holiday bustle.
Next time: priorities.