Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – I think because it officially kicks off the winter holiday season. But the holidays look very different this time around – office parties, gathering in large groups, shared meals with family and friends, a million variations of togetherness are off limits. My family is reconfiguring our plans, arranging video celebrations and virtual Secret Santa, quartering our recipes to conform to the new rules and realities of the season.
I think the thing I’ll miss most this year is going around the dinner table and hearing what everyone is thankful for – because I find the group reflection really powerful, intimate and inspiring but mostly because this year, expressing gratitude seems more essential than ever. In addition to providing perspective, there are so many benefits from practicing thankfulness, including:
Improved physical and psychological health
Enhances empathy and reduces aggression
Increases levels of optimism and energy
Reduces stress and anxiety
It’s been difficult lately not to focus on what we’re missing, the people we’re not seeing, the places we’re not going and the things we’re not doing (which by the way is totally okay to feel). But, articulating what we’re thankful for is a radical act in the midst of a hard time. Turning our attention to the things we do have rather than what we don’t is a tough task, but a crucial one. With a little gratitude, and some positive thinking, we can still get the most out of the season while also improving our overall well-being. Everyone has times where they feel appreciative or thankful for a person or a situation. These moments of thinking about the past in a positive way give us a good feeling and are the very definition of gratitude. Feeling grateful just happens sometimes. Other times, we must make a special effort to increase how often we feel it. With so many disruptions to our usual celebrations, this holiday season might be one of those times. Whether you’ll formally express gratitude at dinner, note it in a journal or meditate on it throughout the holiday season, reflect on the things, people, ideas that you’re appreciating right now.
I know practicing gratitude in a difficult season is hard, so here are a few things that I like to do – take what works best for you:
Make a list. Write everything in your life that makes you grateful and look at this list regularly. It can simply just be in the Notes app on your phone.
Gratitude journal. Take five minutes each day to think of three things that happened that day that you are glad you experienced. Then jot them down.
Take pictures. Photograph little things in your everyday life that make you smile.
Tell someone. Whether it’s someone you look up to or just someone who makes you happy, take a bit of time to tell them that you’re glad to have them in your life.
Think about great holidays of the past. Draw pleasure from all the wonderful times you have had with friends and family and think about how you will again enjoy those times soon.
Here's a handy little sheet for you to save for whenever you need some tips on how to practise gratitude:
And most of all this holiday season, I’m trying to do all the things to express gratitude, feel closer and generate the same holiday cheer without occupying the same space with loved ones. I’m extremely sad that my first year back in the States (I lived abroad in London for 2 years), I can’t spend every minute of the holiday with my big, crazy, loud Pakistani family from Canada, Utah and Maryland so I’ll be doing things like sending gifts/cards in the mail, dropping off freshly baked cookies on doorsteps and creating our first-ever family photo card to mail out. While I’ll miss some of our long-lasting traditions, I’m *grateful* that I get to create new ones this year to help us feel a little more connected to each other.
In this year like no other, I want to know what makes you grateful. So, let’s go around ‘the table’ and share what we’re grateful for. I’ll go first: I’m grateful for 2020 because it might be the wake-up call we all needed for a better tomorrow.
What are you thankful for this year? Share with me below!
Aleena is a Vice President at a global PR and marketing firm, which has given her many opportunities that she’s grateful for including working in the various office locations including London. She likes to use social media to spread joy, raise awareness of social causes close to her heart and help change the world. She’s also really grateful to be a part of the fierce Asian Woman Festival team as the social media manager. Things that make her heart happy: smothering her cat, putting too much effort into her IG Stories, proving desi aunties wrong, being strong and independent, fighting for gender equity and talking about mental wellbeing. Follow her on Instagram @aleenaiman, and make sure you’re following @AsianWomanFestival too.