The countdown has arrived - ten days until many will be celebrating Christmas! Other holidays follow quickly, and however you and your loved ones choose to celebrate, time is slipping away, day by day. The shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating and preparations may look different this year, but may we all find a way to pause and recognize that we, to date, have survived a nationwide pandemic. Some things may never be the same again. Our perception of our world may not be the same. It is important to acknowledge the things we’ve lost - the regular work or school routines, the vacations, family events, or sports activities. Some loss may be much greater, with grief following the loss of a loved one. It is difficult trying to find that glimmer of gratitude when struggling to find the positive aspects in life, but don’t stop with just listing the loss. Research has shown when we express gratitude it can improve our mood, alleviate stress and depression while giving optimism, positivity and mindfulness. Here are a few ways to alter our way of thinking to being more grateful..
Be mindful- pay attention, on purpose, in the present without judgement. Take time to really appreciate the sights, sounds, scents and activities you find available. Be present to enjoy without rushing, or being frustrated with what doesn’t get done. Give yourself grace - it’s ok if not everything gets done this year.
Use intentional moments or words to set the tone of the day. Think about what brings you peace and joy and use that image or word to give you encouragement when frustrations or disappointment arise.
Journaling is a great way to track the goodness in life, the simple, little things that are easy to overlook but that would really be missed if they weren’t there.
Think about the people who have inspired you, those who may have invested time, energy and effort to help you achieve where you are today. Don’t forget family members or other relatives who may have encouraged you along the way. Reflect on the younger generations - how might you assist them? Focus on the good words, acts and deeds of others and ponder how to pay it forward.
Research indicates that being grateful includes a time of solitude, to meditate or pray. Search deep within to really identify what you need to be grateful for and how you might share with others.
Think about something that has happened to you that was positive and how it would be different if that event didn’t happen. How would your life look if you didn’t take the job, the move, the friend, etc?
The simple act of expressing our thanks to others around us is contagious. When we model the attitude of gratitude, others will follow.
During this time, it’s difficult to keep the little ones busy with all of the excitement in the air. Following are some very simple ideas to help them enjoy the season with easy handmade items that could be made and/or given as gifts. If you have other ideas, please e-mail me, I’d love to add them to the list! Hill.email@example.com
String popcorn and/or cranberries with a blunt needle for older children or use cereal with circle openings and a piece of yarn that has been dipped in candle wax to harden it for younger children. The strings can be used for your tree or placed outside as treat for the birds.
Paper chains are always popular and a great way to build math skills by doing a sequence, cutting, and other fine motor skills.
Tracing children’s handprints and making them into a wreath, a gift tag or an ornament helps to track growth from year to year. Hand painted packages are a favorite for relatives who may not get to visit often.
Pipe cleaners are great for molding around cookie cutters to make ornaments or twist together to make their own shapes and designs. Great for tree ornaments, gift toppers, or other decorations.
Using a shoe box, cut a hole in the lid large enough for the child’s hand. Add one item a day (non-perishable) from now until your celebration. Each day let the child feel what’s in the box and count how many days since they started.
Next week I’ll share a few kitchen recipes and activities children may enjoy while assisting you in the kitchen. May your week be filled with goodness and joy.
Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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