An Attitude of Gratitude

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” – William James

For some, the holidays are all about joy, time spent with loved ones, and, of course, delicious meals. For others, however, this time of year brings about a more pessimistic state of mind. From the crush of holiday shoppers to an overabundance of family time, certain less-than-appealing factors can eclipse seasonal happiness. What causes some to embrace the cheer of the season and others to avoid it as much as possible? 

Certain personality types are especially prone to pessimistic thinking, and the holidays are unlikely to warm their hearts or improve their attitudes. If anything, the excesses of the season may only serve to amplify their feelings of negativity. Rather than focusing on what is pleasant or positive, they may find themselves caught up in a cycle of negativity, often assuming the worst of everyone and everything.

Thinking personality types are particularly prone to believing they need to be “realistic” – which often translates into being pessimistic. While they may feel they’re insulating themselves from disappointment, Thinking types may actually be setting themselves up for the negative outcomes they were trying to avoid. 

Being bitter about aspects of the holidays they find undesirable may seem noble to Thinking personalities, but it can cause them to miss out on what’s truly special about this time of year. Assuming that you’ll argue with Uncle Fred during your holiday gathering (because it happens every year!) isn’t just being realistic. It’s an act of preparation. Being put off by the materialism that this season has become known for is fine – but it’s not necessary to berate your sister who loves spending her time shopping for gifts. 

Individuals with the Feeling personality trait are no less likely to suffer from bouts of negativity during the holidays. While they may find family time and holiday festivities enjoyable, they can still become overwhelmed and jaded during this season. Expectations may not always match reality, and holiday drama can crush even the most joyful Feeling type’s dreams of peacefulness. Their desire for everyone to enjoy the festivities as they do – whether by embracing the magic of the season or by participating in every event – can be a recipe for disappointment.

Both pessimism and unrealistic expectations are certain to result in a disappointing holiday season. Thankfully, there is one (very appropriate) way to turn all of the potential negatives into positives: by creating a consistent, intentional gratitude practice. This simple mind shift can not only increase the enjoyment of the season – it can have long-lasting and far-reaching effects.

For those who tend to assume the worst in every situation, it’s difficult to just “think happy thoughts.” Gratitude, however, is different – it allows us to look for things we wholeheartedly enjoy or can’t imagine living without. From a favorite cousin who always makes you laugh to an especially meaningful holiday tradition, there is always something to be grateful for. At the very least, there is usually a plethora of delicious foods to enjoy.

Similarly, those who feel disappointed if the magic they expect from the season doesn’t materialize can still find some form of beauty to appreciate. A cozy evening by the fire, a meaningful conversation with a loved one, and even the smell of goodies baking in the oven can be sources of gratitude. Laughing over burnt cookies with your kids can be just as enjoyable as frosting them, if the focus is on the perfectly imperfect beauty of the experience.

An attitude of gratitude – finding something to be grateful for even when circumstances aren’t ideal – will undoubtedly bring joy back into the holidays for even the most skeptical individuals. And incorporating this practice into everyday life will help any personality type carry the magic of this special season into the New Year.

Happy Holidays!

3 weeks ago
There are holidays to make us stop our daily routines, slow down and think about what we are doing. Life usually feels like a haze, going through the routines, feeling like the days all melt together until something reminds us that there’s a bigger world out there again. At least that’s what it feels like to me. I often see people getting carried away in the moment: a coworker complaining that their day is ruined because of one small issue, a car hurring to cross in front of you, almost making you put on the breaks, because they couldn’t wait until you passed for a larger opening. I believe that all of these people are only focused in the moment, forgetting the big picture. Someone might imagine how much worse their day could get at work instead, they should appreciate that they have a job in the first place. They might hate the work but, they have to remember the reasons they are working the job to pay the bills or feed their family. They should be thinking as they clock in, as I thought to myself for many mornings, another day of having a roof over my head and food on the table. People should incorporate stopping every day to think about how grateful they are for everything they already have, not just on Thanksgiving.
3 weeks ago
I know my reply is a bit short and different compared to the other ones but i just want to say that i think that there are people out there that complain because they want to say something and have nothing positive to say(thats what they think). What i said is only for people that complain to other people. This is not a reply to say that i disagree or agree but i just wanted to mention it
3 weeks ago
I have to say that I respectfully disagree. I believe that people should be allowed to feel how they feel in the moment. Telling people that they should feel grateful often creates a feeling of shame rather than gratitude, since the person often then feels guilty and selfish for not feeling the way they should. But all feelings are valid; it’s the way that we express them that is healthy or unhealthy. If instead of feeling grateful that they have a job, a person thinks on how they much they dislike their job and how much they’d like a different one, that is a very valid feeling, and can be constructive if the person then chooses to apply to a different job to which they are better suited. A recent study showed that affirmations (sayings that are supposed to increase wellbeing in one who repeats them) can actually make many people feel depressed and ashamed that they are not as happy, fortunate, etc. as they think they should be. I know studies can be flawed, but I’m inclined to agree, especially as someone who has clinical depression. Telling yourself to be happy actually makes you less so. Sometimes it is healthier to live in the moment, and when you do have a moment of peace and calm, then you can think, yes, I am grateful for what I have. But I think it’s healthier not to force it during a moment of stress and strong negative emotions.
3 weeks ago
There are some studies along those lines...but there are also studies that show that affirmations can be helpful depending on how the wording is framed. Instead of affirming 'I am happy!' when you don't feel happy, it's useful to focus on the neutral statement and express gratitude from there ~ e.g. 'I don't feel very happy right now because I slipped up again in my holiday spending. But that doesn't make me a bad person. It just means I'm still working on learning how to manage my finances. I'm grateful I have the chance to start over and try again. If I keep working on it, I will get better. ' That's a realistic, positive affirmation that admits the reality of the moment, but that is forward focused on a positive outcome. Here are some studies in this area: Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation (Nov 5, 2015 Cascio, O’Donnell, Tinney et al.) Self-Affirmation Enhances Performance, Makes Us Receptive to Our Mistakes (Oct 12, 20112, APA) Spontaneous self-affirmation is associated with psychological well-being: Evidence from a US national adult survey sample (May 9, 2016, Emmanuel, Taber, Howell, et al)
3 weeks ago
I have to agree with how Angela phrased it, not forcing yourself to be happy, but to realize why you feel that way and there is always something positive you can learn from it. I did not mean that you can’t have negative emotions just that you can do something to make it better. Like Glitter au Barca said you can try to fix the problem for example getting a new job that fits you better but, that isn’t always an option for everyone. In those situations I still have to deal with by a healthy way of thinking. For me, that is being grateful for what I already have and will continue to have if I follow my path.
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