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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jude Black

Gratitude Part II: Powerful Tips to Shine through the Holidays

To continue with Gratitude Part I: Powerful Tips to Survive the Holidays, here is Part II. Read on for Tips to Shine Through the Holidays and build those Gratitude muscles!

Six gratitude exercises that can help you reflect on the season’s blessings and keep inevitable stress in check.

1. Take regular breathing breaks.

When Cousin Fred is “at it again” with his narrow minded views and one-sided discussions, and you feel your heart racing and blood pressure start to rise, take a time out. Use this as an opportunity to exercise your mindfulness muscles

Step away from the chaos and find something else to focus on, such as the falling snow outside, a blinky strand of holiday lights, or simply the “feel” of the crisp air. As you give your attention to that object, take a handful of deep breaths and reflect on something that brings you joy. Rinse and repeat. When you feel calmer, rejoin the party.

2. Make a list of what you’re thankful for.

Try writing in a gratitude journal at the start or end of your day, to either set the tone for the day ahead or reflect on the positive things that took place. Take 10 minutes to jot down whatever comes to mind and look at the list whenever you start to feel overwhelmed or annoyed. You may also want to revisit it toward the end of the holidays, when you’re setting goals for the year to come. You can even try an app like My Gratitude Journal, that helps you track five things you’re grateful for every day. You’ll get reminders and rewards to help you create a journaling habit, and other fun things to help you along the way. But just so you know, it’s only available for iOS. If you prefer keeping it all online, try The Private Gratitude Journal. You can empower yourself to explore all the different apps and options available, there are so many!

3. Look towards yourself.

Don’t just look outward, look in at yourself too. A habit of being appreciative and grateful towards yourself is a simple way to boost your self-esteem and self-confidence.

Ask yourself: “Self, What are 3 things I can be grateful for about me?” Don't be shy! If it's too hard, imagine what you BFF would say about you.

It could be that you were a good, compassionate friend this week in the midst of chaos and took the time to listen. You can simply be grateful for your good sense of humor or that you help people out a lot by being a good listener from time to time.

4. Perform random acts of kindness.

Whether it’s volunteering at a soup kitchen, smiling at a mommy with a screaming child, or encouraging an overworked cashier, being good to others can be good for you, too. Studies show that volunteering lowers stress and anxiety, plus it helps you see how fortunate you and your family are. There is true healing and “Feel Good” emotions involved with giving back to the greater good, focusing on the needs of others, and realizing that even when life is messy, you actually have things in your world to be grateful for.

5. Let go of unrealistic expectations.

Your Instagram feed might be bursting with photos of perfect handmade wreaths and ornate decorations and place settings. Your "Extra" friends have manage to take the perfect Facebook photo of their extra perfect tree... just stop! Really. Resist the urge to hold yourself to an idealized version of the holidays. Take a Digital Hiatus over the holidays and focus on the joys in your own life. It can help lower stress and improve your mood. Whether it’s playing cards with your family, building a snowman with the kids or having a lovely lunch with a friend, once you start counting your blessings and enjoying your experiences, you’ll likely find that some of your stress melts away.

While the holidays can bring their share of challenges, focusing on the things you’re thankful for can help you deal with them more effectively. Being intentional and acknowledging that gratitude helps us to reset our thinking and perspective, can help us to reset our mood. That’s #winning!

6. Go tell it on the mountains.

Don’t just keep the gratitude on the inside. Express it. Share it. Scream it from the mountain top! This makes other people happier and may even encourage them to pay it forward by expressing how you are grateful for having them in your life. Plus, their smile and the joy in their eyes when you tell them this will make you happier too.

You may wonder, “Does it really matter?” I can assure you, that hearing “You matter and this is why….” DOES matter! Your simple words can have a significant impact on someone’s day, week or even life sometimes. So, tell the people in your life. Tell them in person tonight. Or write an email or a letter to someone a little further away in the world. Or send a small text message right now.


Holiday gatherings provide useful opportunities to cultivate feelings of gratitude. Coming together with friends, family, and communities provides a moment to acknowledge and give thanks for each of them.

Even our most difficult friends and family usually have some redeeming qualities. Choosing to focus our attention on what’s positive about them, no matter how small, rather than dwelling on their annoying habits can improve your state of mind.

Remember, gratitude promotes optimism and helps us to develop a more positive outlook. What better time than this holiday season to be merry? So, pause for a moment, reflect on something you have in your life right now instead of always striving for more … the next goal, the new shoes, the new toy, the new car, or the house renovation … cultivate that attitude of gratitude. It matters and so do you!

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” —Oprah Winfrey

About the Author: Dr. Jude Black is the CEO & Founder of E-Therapy Cafe. She is our Story Lover, Emotional Healer, Chaos Calmer, Change Catalyst, Resiliency Ninja, & Life Expert. To schedule a session with Dr. Black, click here.

E-Therapy Café™ is a people-focused, innovative online counseling and coaching platform for individuals, couples, families and corporations. The mission is to provide professional, convenient, and affordable, modern online therapy – anytime, anywhere for everyone. The Boutique Team of Licensed Therapists and Certified Life Coaches are passionate change catalyst, focused on realistic goals in today’s fast-paced world. The headquarters is in Northern VA with a nationwide and global reach.

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