For many, the time between November and the beginning of the New Year is a time of increased output. We spend a great deal of time and resources preparing for and celebrating holidays. It can be “the most wonderful time of the year” AND a real recipe for exhaustion. It seems like everywhere you look advertisers encourage you to spend more and do more. Magazine articles will highlight the best gift ideas and outline strategies for making the most memorable experience ever. If you have children, you may also find your mailbox a target for lengthy toy catalogs. Social media is filled with images of celebration. Naturally, you may compare your experience to the many images that swirl about. Why does the act of comparing, whether intentional or unintentional, cause us such dissatisfaction?
Ted Talk speaker, Frans de Waal, demonstrates humorously that even other members of the animal kingdom find inequality upsetting. The Capuchin monkeys depict this perfectly in this brief and relateable clip from his Ted Talk: https://youtu.be/meiU6TxysCg (the full talk can be viewed at: https://www.ted.com/talks/frans_de_waal_do_animals_have_morals). Your situation may seem acceptable, until you take a look over at your neighbor and compare your circumstances.
Theodore Roosevelt stated, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Perhaps our real power comes from our ability to stay focused on our own gratitude rather than checking out what others have. I believe we can magnify joy by staying focused on what is good in our own lives. At our house, it is time to bring back the “Thankful Jar.” It is simply a large glass jar that contains a collection of simple statements of gratitude. Next to it is a smaller jar that contains colorful paper. Every family member is invited to add their thoughts on the slips of paper. It sits on our kitchen table as a visual reminder of our collective gratitude. It can also be used as a mindfulness tool when we need to reflect on the abundance in our lives. You can find other gratitude practices such as gratitude journaling at mindful.org (https://www.mindful.org/a-simple-weekly-mindfulness-practice-keep-a-gratitude-journal/).
When we feel gratitude, sometimes we discover that what we have is already enough. And when we feel like we are enough and have enough, the anxiety that can fuel holiday madness can dissipate. This year I plan to recycle the toy ads before they reach my children, remember that the magazine pictures are carefully created by professional chefs and photographers, and bear in mind that social media posts are most likely the highlight version of real life. However you spend your time in the coming month, I wish you peace, joy, and gratitude.
Jenny M., MA, joined Empathia in 2013 and is one of our Performance Specialists; her previous position here was as an EAP Counselor. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Counseling with an emphasis in School Counseling. Prior to joining Empathia, she worked as a School Counselor with children ranging in age from 4-18 years old. Jenny enjoys photography, travel, hiking, reading, adventures with her sons, and spending time with her family.
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