Written by Amy Scalia
This year has been heavy. And now with quarantine extending into the holidays, altering our plans and timeless traditions, it feels heavier than ever. But there’s a silver lining to the timing of this special season (I promise, stay with me here). I hope me sharing my story and lessons learned helps lighten your load, and brings some jolly and bright back into your holidays.
Last year around this time, I was hitting rock bottom. A windstorm had demolished most of our house. Thankfully we all got out unscathed, but our family of five had to live in a hotel for five months as it got repaired. Plans were to move back in right before Thanksgiving, so we invited friends and family up for a house re-warming and Thanksgiving dinner. A week before move-in, we were told it was going to be another month. I was crushed. I genuinely didn’t know how we had made it five months. And now we had to endure yet another month, and a holiday lost that should have been spent in our house.
Serendipitously, the day after I got the contractor’s call, I had to interview a physician at a leading research hospital to cover their new research studies. I assumed it would be about a new pharmaceutical, as usual. This time, though, he talked about the benefits of a gratitude practice. He went on about the positive effects it has on patients at a molecular level. How it helps you be more resilient through tough times, from experiencing more positive emotions and sleeping better to reducing inflammation and living longer.
I was floored. Of all things, gratitude. On the way home, I started thinking about my gratitude practice. Well, my lack thereof. I decided, as tough as it was to feel grateful for anything at that time, I needed to give it a try.
Now with several ways I consistently practice gratitude. I can honestly say it not only got me through that difficult time, it’s changed my life for the better. Something we can all use a little of now, right? So, here are a few of my favorite ways to get started this holiday season:
- Start a gratitude journal. From now until the end of the year, write down at least three things you’re grateful for each day. Be specific – the more you pay attention to details, the more you’ll start to notice the positive things in your life. Also, be consistent — if you have a set time in your day to do this, you’ll be less likely to forget. I like to do this before bed every night. Filling my mind with what I’m grateful for, instead of the list of things I didn’t get to that day, is a much better way to wind down for a restful and restorative night of sleep.
- Make a gratitude chain. Turn your home into a hub for gratitude. Have a station with precut construction paper, markers, and tape or glue in a high-traffic spot in your home. Ask everyone to pause every time they walk by to jot down something they’re grateful for – then fasten it as a link on the chain. On Christmas or New Year’s Eve, read the links aloud and feel the love.
- Write a note. Missing family and friends this holiday season? Channeling that into thoughtful, handwritten words can be soothing for you – and a sweet surprise for the recipient. So, cozy up under your comfiest blanket, light a candle for extra ambiance and inspiration, and put your extra time at home to good use.
- Just call to say “thank you.” Make a list of people who have done something nice for you lately or have gone above and beyond for someone you care about. Set some time aside each week, or even use your drive time, to call and say thank you. It’s sure to brighten both your days.
- Send care packages. While we can’t physically be with and hug all our friends and loved ones this year, sending one in the mail is the next best thing. Getting anything in the mail that’s not junk or bills is always exciting, and a curated little collection of things they’ll love is even better. For the adventurer, some Stay Handy Gloves, Cozy Up Scarf, or the Snow Day Bobble Beanie. For the homebody, a Super-Soft Sock or Fireside Slippers, Paddywax Candle, or Reed Diffuser with some festive Peppermint Oil. For your always-entertaining friend, the Ultimate Bar Book, a Stainless Steel Straw Set, Two-Sided Puzzle, or Dinner Party Candle. For the aspiring Chef, a Platters and Boards Book or California Living + Eating
- Gratitude Rocks. This one is especially fun if you have kiddos to help. Paint rocks with images and messages that inspire gratitude. Then take a trail walk to get some fresh air and work off those holiday meals. Set the rocks in special places to surprise other hikers. Be dressed for your adventure with a Packable Anorack or Packable Swing Parka. Opt for the Quilted Parka for extra warmth.
- Find a way to give back. Think about the causes that matter to you, and the people or things in the community that you’d like to help. Reach out to organizations that align to see how you can give back, whether that’s making a donation or volunteering in a way that’s safe during COVID-19. You can even give back with your holiday shopping and everyday purchases, so look for retailers that have causes they support that align well with your values.
While this season is sure to have its challenges regardless, I hope these gratitude practice tips help put a little more happy in your Happy Holidays this year. From our UpWest family to yours, we raise a glass in gratitude to you. Cheers!