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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

December 20, 2023 - 9:00am --

As the holiday season progresses, I’m sure many of you are looking at your lists and wondering how it will all get done?  Just remember for most things, you are the only one who will know if things don’t get done.  It’s ok if there’s not the variety of cookies, or the perfectly wrapped packages.  There’s no sense in working ‘round the clock to get things done if you can’t enjoy your time with families and friends.  Most often, we remember the time spent with family and friends, not the gifts or the food.  To test that theory - what do you remember most about last year’s celebrations?  What do your children remember? It's ok to let go and change as our children grow and replace certain traditions with new ones.  It’s also understandable to make changes if there’s been major life events that have us dreading things this year.  I was just on the phone with a co-worker who lost her father this year and we talked through some ways to change the activities so that it may not be quite as painful.

 A few weeks ago, there was a blog post written by Kate Shumaker in Holmes County, that talked about being grateful when you don’t feel like it.  It may be losing a loved one, a challenging family relationship, struggling finances or health concerns that limit participation of family gatherings. There were some tips that were shared that I thought you might find helpful.

The first point is to be gentle with yourself. No one gets to grade you on your gratitude.  She points out that in 2020, researchers at The Ohio State University analyzed results from 27 separate studies that examined the effectiveness of gratitude interventions on reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. The results showed that such interventions had limited benefits at best. Believe it or not, gratitude and negative emotions can exist side by side. 

Use senses to find things to be grateful for

When it feels like you have nothing to be grateful for, use your senses and look at the little things.  Could you be grateful for the brisk winter breeze or sunrise amidst the frost? Or the sound of crunching snow or twinkling lights?  Or maybe the yummy aroma from your morning coffee or tea and the way the mug warms your hands?  What about the feeling of a hug from a loved one (human or animal)? Maybe something as simple as your favorite song or movie?  Being present in the moment can help us savor the blessings we do have, while realizing it’s ok to miss the ones we don’t.

Being grateful also doesn’t have to be all about the present day.  When we’re having trouble feeling grateful right now, recalling times we are grateful for can remind us that there have been good times.  And may be again. 

“Does gratitude spare us from sorrow, sadness, grief, and pain? No, but it does soothe our feelings.  It provides us with a greater perspective on the very purpose and joy of life.” -Russell M. Nelson

Sometimes we may need something to trigger gratitude.  Asking yourself some simple questions is an easy way to do this.  Try asking one of these questions:

  • What made me smile recently?
  • What abilities do I have but take for granted?
  • Is there an item I use every day that I am thankful for having?
  • Has someone done something for me recently that made my life easier/better?
  • What opportunities do I currently have that I am grateful for?
  • What did I see today or over the last month that was beautiful?

In the midst of this celebration season, consider this a reminder that you can choose to acknowledge (or not) each holiday in a way that suits you. In hard times, the simple things like breathing in and breathing out can be counted as blessings. 

During the upcoming holidays, please pause to take care of yourself by making sure you get enough sleep, eat nutritious foods on a regular basis and find ways to savor the memories with the sights, sounds and flavors of the season.

This article was previously published in The Daily Record