THANKFULNESS 101: 7 WAYS TO TRULY BE THANKFUL

Ah November, the season of giving thanks, lots of family time, and food coma naps. November kicks off a Holiday season in which we’re reminded to be thankful each and every day. Ideally, we should all be thankful 365 days a year, but life gets in the way of that sometimes. We get caught up in our jobs, or school and we forget to take a moment and appreciate the good in our lives. Gratitude, however, has long been credited with alleviating depression and anxiety symptoms and boosting your overall happiness. So why not be thankful 365 days a year? Here are 7 simple ways to remember all the great things you have to be thankful for this holiday season!

TAKE A STEP BACK

Go sit in nature, embark on an impromptu journey or anything that can be considered a break from your routine. Remove yourself from your current environment and place yourself on the outskirts. This allows you to really evaluate your situation for what it is. Living in Manhattan, I try to do this once a week. It’s so easy to get buried in everything going on around you, and feel overwhelmed by even the littlest things in life. But something as simple as hopping over to Brooklyn and seeing the skyline instantly puts everything back into perspective. It lets me truly capture the glow that is sometimes hard to recognize when too close up. And then I dive back into the lights, thankful for the city I call home.joe-taylor-613277-unsplash

KEEP A JOURNAL

This is something my therapist recommended to me and it’s been a huge game changer. While the idea of sitting down to write everyday may be daunting, it is super helpful to remember that it doesn’t have to be a thorough report on every single event and emotion of the day.  Instead, start with writing down 3-5 things that you are thankful for. It can be something as simple as someone holding the door for you at the supermarket, anything that is a little reminder of the good in the world. Taking a moment to reflect on that is incredibly powerful and instantly uplifting.

SPEND TIME WITH YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS

Put in a little effort to grab lunch together or talk for a few minutes on the phone. The stress relieving effects that the mere accompaniment of family and friends can have on a person is sometimes undermined and taken for granted. The next time you are sitting amidst the carefree comfort of loved ones, take a moment to really acknowledge how you feel. That warm feeling of gratitude will start settling in your heart. Ah, you can never get enough of it.

REDEFINE FAMILY

When you are experiencing some internal family issues, the very idea of family might bring you more stress and pain than it does joy, especially during the Holiday season. Remember, it’s OK to feel that way, and it’s not uncommon. You can redefine the word family to simply mean the people who make you happy. That may be your roommates, your best friends, your pets, or your Vinas! Whoever is in your life that you truly love and enjoy can become your family, and that is definitely something to be thankful for. It’s been said that we can’t choose our family, let’s redefine that too!simon-maage-706908-unsplash.jpg

VOLUNTEER

Go to a homeless shelter, an animal shelter, your local food drive – whatever you have in your community that encourages giving back. Not only will it be a great opportunity to recognize and feel grateful for what you have, but also to express that gratitude. And from the joy that comes from giving back, you might find yourself in double-gratitude mode; being grateful for being able to be grateful!

SMILE

I am notorious for having RBF, but I’ve found that forcing myself to smile at people instantly brightens my mood. The whole world seems to soften when you smile. It allows you to remember to not take everything so seriously, and that in the grand scheme of things, life is pretty good.david-calderon-1065259-unsplash.jpg

TAKE A BREAK FROM TECHNOLOGY

Put down your phone and put off posting that Insta story to a little later. While social media is great and has completely changed the world we live in, it also often becomes a source of negative feelings. Take a small hiatus, really unplug. It can be just for a few hours or a few days, whatever works for you. In doing this you’re able to be completely present and enjoy the things that you have.

Enjoy this season of thanks, Vinas!

Is there something you are thankful for? Share it with your vina on the Hey! VINA app now and you won’t be sorry!

WORKING ON NOT COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS

It arrives seemingly out of the blue. Usually when I’m least expecting it, my college magazine/newsletter shows up in my mailbox, glossy and rich and filled to the brim with these little pieces of evil called alumni notes.

Oh sure, they’re harmless enough on the surface. They’re words printed on pages that will eventually get recycled anyway. No big deal, right? Except that these little words have the incredible power to make me feel totally and utterly awful about myself.

By all accounts, I should be proud of myself. I have a wonderful family and circle of friends. I have a graduate degree and a career. I’ve run marathons and I even won a powerlifting meet once. These are all wonderful accomplishments.

And yet, ten minutes reading through the alumni notes sent by the private liberal arts college I attended is enough to convince me that I’m failing at everything, I haven’t done enough with my life, and I’m too old to do anything more anyway. (I’m not old, but I’m definitely not a recent college grad.) Even though logically I know that these are absurd reactions, I just can’t help feeling them.

How do you fight the urge to compare yourself to others? It’s been a lifelong struggle for me. Sure, on some level, the feelings of competitiveness are a nice source of motivation and even inspiration, but when you come up short compared to someone else, it feels heart-wrenching.

I don’t know how to stop this urge to compare, but there are a few things I like to do to at least curb the feelings of inadequacy:

I keep a “reverse bucket list.” Not to be confused with an anti-bucket list which is a list of stuff you never want to do, the reverse bucket list (the source for which escapes me at the moment) is a list of things you have accomplished. A life resume, if you will. When you sit down and catalog everything you’re proud of from your degrees to the fact that you make amazing chocolate cake, it really helps you remember that you are, indeed, awesome.

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A reverse bucket list creatively drawn via Kara Benz

I take a break from social media. To paraphrase the saying, stop comparing your behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel. It’s easy to feel awful when you’re bombarded with other people’s carefully curated social media lives. It helps me to close the browser and remind myself that all the people I follow probably also have their own mess of insecurities to deal with that they simply don’t want to share.

I check my privilege. After years of feeling bad about my body and comparing myself to other women, I read something that has stuck with me to this day: “Your ‘before’ weight might be someone else’s goal weight.” That got me to 1) stop complaining about my weight, and 2) realize that I should be grateful for what I have accomplished because of course, luck and privilege play a role just much as hard work does. It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t set goals for myself or keep striving for new heights; it means that comparison is often pointless because of factors that are usually beyond our control anyway.

Do you have any strategies that work for you? Let us know in the comments!

(Featured Image via Brandy Melville)