A Season of Gratitude :: How To Be a Merry Mama

With 5 fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, this month has been A LOT.

Some would even say too much.

Too much drinking, too much eating, too much family drama, too much on your list for school events, and then there’s too much guilt for the things you haven’t accomplished.

As the primary creators of this holiday magic, we mamas can often miss the opportunity to experience the joy and wonder these precious memories have to offer. If you’re like me, you can find it difficult to slow down and prioritize presence over presents.

How can we get the most enjoyment from this holiday season? Simple: Extend Thanksgiving.

Now before you get your turkey legs twisted, I’m not suggesting you regularly prepare a full course meal while dodging awkward family discussions.

I do, however, implore you to continue a thankful state of mind throughout your hustle and bustle this holiday season. Perhaps, even into the New Year.

There is REAL power in positive thinking!

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.” – Tony Robbins

The term, “Positive Psychology,” suggests we can affect positive change on the body and mind simply by being grateful. Grateful people report lower levels of stress and depression. Those who practice gratitude also report benefits that range from boosted immune systems to working out more regularly.

That’s great news!!! Not only will your positive attitude make you a merry mama, but you’ll also reap the long list of health benefits. Benefits such as increased life span, lower rates of depression, lower levels of stress, greater resistance to the common cold, better psychological and physical well-being, reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and better coping skills during hardships and times of stress.

….but a thankful heart won’t just happen. It’s going to take more than just the intention to be grateful, you’re going to have to practice Gratitude. Daily.

Here are some of my favorite ways to practice gratitude:

1. Keep a gratitude journal ::

At the beginning and/or end of each day, physically write down 3 things you are grateful for. Personally, I love this print out to laminate and keep on the fridge. You can also keep a gratitude journal next to your bed. (You’ll find mine on top of the Netflix remote. Even if my practice is prompted by guilt, I’m always better off after.)

In a study by Dr. Robert A. Emmons and  Dr. Michael E. McCullough, participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions. Perfect timing for that New Year’s resolution coming up!

2. Look for the good ::

The famous quote by Mister Rogers always comes to mind. If you’re not familiar, when he was little and would see scary things in the news, his mother would always say, “look for the helpers. You will always find people helping.” Similarly, there is always good in every situation. If you are having trouble coming up with three things to be grateful for, try looking at your day from a different angle. Write down your frustrations and then flip the script. Turn them upside down and find the good. You might just need to look for the helpers in your day!

3. Speaking of others, reach out and say thank you! ::

We all have people that have impacted us one way or another. Write a thank-you note to those who have helped shape your life. Let them know you appreciate them and express the impact they have made.

On a much smaller scale, don’t wait to thank someone that has helped or been kind to you. We often get distracted or may even let pride get in the way, but a simple text letting a friend know you appreciate them goes a long way. It might even give them the pause they need to reflect on what they are grateful for!

4. Perform Random Acts of Kindness ::

‘Tis the season after all! You can find an opportunity to do good on almost every corner. Although welcomed if you have the means, kindness does not require a grand gesture or monetary support. Visit your local nursing home and spend time with someone that might be alone this holiday season. You can also volunteer your time to help someone in need. This is a great exercise to involve the whole family!

Do Good = Feel Good.

5. Remember the differences between wants and needs ::

In today’s world of instant gratification, it is easy to lose sight of what is really important. Often we take every day things for granted, such as owning a vehicle or even having clean, running water. Bring your level of gratitude back to basics in your practice, and reflect on how lucky you truly are. More often times than not, your list will begin to snowball. Before you know it, your heart (and cup) will be overflowing!

Take it from the daytime television’s Santa herself. In a commencement speech at Wellesley (1997) Oprah stated, “I believe that if you can learn to focus on what you have, you will always see that the universe is abundant and you will have more. If you concentrate and focus on what you don’t have, you will never have enough.”

Soak up your blessings this season, mama. There will never be another one like it.

Kristen, a proud UL Lafayette graduate, lives nestled between Verot School Rd. construction signs with her 2 children, husband, and projects waiting to be worked on. For her, family comes first - always. When she isn’t diving headfirst into an existential crisis, she spends her time catching up on all things Bravo, wishing she had gone to bed earlier, and helping her husband find household items hidden in plain sight. Kristen is obsessed with helping moms feel encouraged, supported and confident throughout their motherhood journey. As the owner of CircleUP Fitness, she devotes her time and energy to ensuring moms across the Acadiana area look and feel their very best. A fierce mental health advocate and part-time social justice warrior, Kristen believes vulnerability is the key to a happy life and strives to live life as transparent as possible.