Thanksgiving is that time of year when everyone tells you to stop and give thanks for all you have. Be thankful for your family, a roof over your head, your health and on and on. But what if you’re not thankful? What if the reality is that your family is miserable, you don’t have a roof over your head and you’re not, in fact, healthy? What then? What if the last thing in the world you want to do is to “Be Thankful?” Or, what if you actually would love to be able to be thankful, but you just can’t muster it?
If being thankful is something that feels beyond your scope at this time, then go for the next best thing: acceptance. I know it may sound crazy, but if things truly suck for you right now, don’t wallow in your misery, feel guilty about not being thankful or try to pretend that everything is great. Instead, breathe in, slow down and simply accept where things are for you right now. Take a slow deep breath in (through your nose) and just as slowly release it (through your mouth). Do this several times until you feel your heart rate slowing down and you feel calm. Next, get real with yourself. Take an honest look at where your life is and what about it you don’t like. Name those things. But name them without exaggeration or drama or extreme thinking. Simply name the facts. For example, “Thanksgiving is hard for me because I don’t have a family to go to or any close friends. I’m barely making ends meet and I hate my job. I don’t like where I am right now in my life.”
After you name these things, take a deep breathe of acceptance. Accept that this is where your life is right now. Accept these circumstances without judgment, anger, ridicule, etc….it just is. Accept that things, at this moment in time, are not where you want them to be. Don’t make anything up about the future when you’re going over this list. Just know that on this day, at this time, these are the things going on and with which you’re struggling.
Sit with this list for a moment and see if it is an accurate list. Accurate — meaning it’s not skewed too far in the negative direction, positive direction or in the “woe is me” direction. When you’re comfortable with what you wrote down, next ask yourself what you would like to be different next year at this time. Write your answers down. Next to each item you want to be different, write down two steps you could take that would move you in the direction of making that change happen. For example, next to “I’d like to have a great job that I love” you might write, “Begin to explore possibility of changing jobs” and “Look at job listings online and elsewhere.” Take the time to look over your list and without judgment, negative thinking or ridicule accept the changes you’d like to happen. Accept that each change has many different possible action steps that you may or may not choose to take. Don’t critique the ones you wrote down, accept them. Put the list aside until you are in a better place to take some of these action steps. Until then, accept that at this moment in time things are not where you want them to be. Take time in the future to decide what you’d like to do about that.
In the meantime, don’t wallow in self-pity—acknowledge you’re upsets. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking—keep the story you tell yourself to the present, not a lifetime. Finally, remember to love and take care of yourself in the struggle.
Challenge: If you’re struggling to be thankful, take the actions above and work on acceptance of that struggle. Whenever you’re able, be thankful for what you do have, what is going well and what does bring you joy (sunsets, music etc.).
Note: Thank you all so much for all of your support, comments, reflections, referrals, etc., over the year. I am touched by all your support and feel truly blessed to have such an awesome community. Thank you.