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Giving Thanks When You Feel Thankless


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Thanksgiving is either beloved or overlooked. Many see it as a wonderful time to get together with friends and family, to cherish what we have, and enjoy an amazing home-cooked dinner. Others see Thanksgiving as an intermediary holiday whose only purpose is to segway into Christmas. For those who feel depressed due to COVID, family issues, a mental health condition, or any side effects of 2020, Thanksgiving may be especially difficult.


It can be hard to feel thankful when there doesn’t seem to be much to be thankful for. Businesses have shut down across the country, reopened, and then shut down again. Friends and family have been separated from one another. Perhaps you live in a state where you aren’t able to see relatives on Thanksgiving. Regardless of your circumstances, this year has been tumultuous for everyone to one degree or another. So how can we give thanks and be grateful when we don’t feel that way? Here are some suggestions:


1. Write a Gratitude List

Get out a piece of pen and paper and start writing down the things you feel grateful for. If this is difficult for you, start with the basics. It can be as simple as having a place to sleep, having food to eat, having a healthy child, or having a part-time job. Try not to focus on what you lost this year, but on what you still have.


When you start writing, you’ll be amazed at how many things we take for granted. Many people all over the world don’t even have a place to live or food to eat every day. Look over this list every day and add to it when a new item pops into your mind. Put it somewhere that you will see, like the refrigerator or your car dashboard.


2. Practice Mindfulness

A lot of our ungratefulness comes from living in the future or the past. We may be reminiscing about all of the things we have lost this year or our worries for the future. Many of us are concerned about how COVID will impact our children’s schooling and mental well-being. These thoughts can be enormously distressing and they also take us out of the precious present moment. We can’t control these events in our past or future, and many of the future “what if” thoughts may not even come to pass.


This doesn’t mean that you should pretend that everything is ok and that there’s no cause for concern. That isn’t what gratitude entails. Gratitude is about focusing on what we have right now, at this moment. Utilize positive dialogue, practice meditation, pray, do yoga, take a hot bath, or do whatever you need to do to be mindful. Start slowing down-drive slower, talk slower, walk slower, and eat slower. Enjoy every little pleasure that comes your way rather than overlooking it.


3. Spend Quality Time with Loved Ones

Many times, we take the people in our lives for granted. We spend hours scrolling through Facebook on our phones, ignoring the people sitting next to us on the couch. Practice gratitude by cherishing the moments you have with friends and family. Go outside to the park, take a long walk with a friend, have a meetup on Zoom, or play with your kids outside. Put your digital devices away and make certain that your entire focus remains on those around you. This will help you feel appreciative for what’s in front of you, rather than those you can’t see due to COVID.


4. Make the Best of Thanksgiving

Depending on your circumstances, Thanksgiving maybe a little bit different this year. It doesn’t mean that it has to be a bad experience. Maybe your get-to-together is a little smaller due to older relatives who can’t getaway. Or perhaps your family has decided not to meet at all due to a sick family member who can’t attend. Regardless, all of these circumstances can cause an enormous amount of depression.


Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a miserable experience this year just because things are a little different. Make the most of your holiday by cherishing what you do have-the friends you can see, the family you can eat with, and the children you can hold. Try to make the best of the situation even if you feel resentful at the circumstances imposed on you. Remember that these circumstances are completely out of your control, the only thing in your control is how you respond to them.


Do you struggle with feeling anxious, depressed, and ungrateful? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.


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