Hello and welcome to the 11,000th month of 2020. Congratulations on surviving this long, my friend.
Throughout this whole pandemic, I’ve tried really hard to get the message across to you that it’s totally okay to feel however you feel. I don’t think it’s good or helpful to force cheerfulness and fake positivity on anyone.
But, there is one caveat to my feelings on the matter. While I don’t think that you should feel pressured into hiding negative feelings, I also don’t think that you should shut out the capacity for positive ones to creep in.
It’s easy to get swept away in crappy feelings, especially when it seems like there are just so many reasons to be anxious, stressed, and sad. I’ve learned that sometimes, I really do need to be shaken out of my funk so that I don’t lose myself completely.
This is actually what led me to writing this post! Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday (don’t @ me, Thanksgiving lovers), and so I’ve been in even more of a depressed rut than usual lately.
While I don’t think that you should feel pressured into hiding negative feelings, I also don’t think that you should shut out the capacity for positive ones to creep in.
That got me thinking about how to steer myself back toward a happier, healthier mental space. My solution? Take the time-honored tradition of giving thanks, but make it fit into this insane 2020 framework.
So, let’s talk about how to be thankful in a real, not-contrived way, even in the midst of a pandemic.
1. Be Grateful For Your Emotions—All of Them
You won’t ever hear me tell someone that they should be grateful that they don’t have it worse than someone else. That kind of gratitude-shaming is so unhelpful, and it’s so dismissive!
You can be grateful for any and all glimmers of happiness or positivity that show up in your life while ALSO acknowledging the fact that you’re suffering, too.
When I say “be grateful for your emotions,” what I really mean is, “give them all room to breathe and exist.” You don’t have to only dwell on the positive or negative ones. You can be thankful for the comfort your cat gives you while also acknowledging that you’re sad or angry about canceled holiday plans during this pandemic.
2. Instill Gratitude and Happiness Into Someone Else’s Life
If you just don’t have the mental space to access gratitude right now, that’s okay. It will come when it’s time. You can still make the choice to do something small that will bring a spark of hope and joy to someone else in need!
Take some time to make simple, handmade cards for loved ones or neighbors to let them know you’re thinking of them. Donate your time or money (if you can) to a local animal shelter. Volunteer to spend time chatting with lonely seniors.
This might not work for everyone, but I find that helping someone else when I don’t feel like I can help myself actually ends up putting me in a better mental space, too.
3. Try Practicing Mindfulness
Yes, I know that mindfulness has kind of become a buzzword recently, but hear me out.
The actual practice of mindfulness is less about becoming a zen master of tranquility and more about learning how to become an observer of our own minds without judgment. (That no-judgment thing is key.)
Is it easy? No! But you don’t have to be perfect at it (or even all that good at it, honestly) for it to help your overall frame of mind.
Mindfulness is less about becoming a zen master of tranquility and more about learning how to become an observer of our own minds without judgment.
Next time you’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed, try this routine:
– If possible, stop what you’re doing and find somewhere quiet. If it’s not possible, take a few deep breaths instead.
– Don’t try to push down or control what you’re feeling, no matter what it is. Instead, think of yourself as an outside observer of that exact present moment. You’re watching and allowing the experience to unfold, but you’re not stuck in the middle of it.
– Let your brain explore what’s going on. Approach with curiosity and compassion for yourself. This allows you to experience what’s happening without minimizing or exaggerating it.
This will feel weird and silly at first, but it can be really useful when you’re feeling overwhelmed by emotions. To get an idea of how it works, you can try practicing this routine when you’re not overwhelmed. Try it when you’re petting your cat, cooking, or driving to work.
When you can feel more at peace with all of the thoughts and emotions stampeding through your brain, it’s a lot easier to make space for happiness to squeeze itself into those dark corners.
Thankfulness Doesn’t Have to Be Forced
We’re all going to have good days and bad days. Right now, it’s pretty normal for most of us to have more not-so-great days than we’d like.
Regardless of how (or if) you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, I encourage you to take a little bit of time to try out these genuine ways to experience some hope and gratitude.
Remember that you don’t have to feel cheerful or act happy in order to let gratitude into your life! Give yourself space to feel all of your emotions, and try to work on coexisting with them instead of judging them.
How are you handling the holidays this season? Have you found ways to be thankful despite the pandemic? Let’s chat about it in the comments!