I’ve always loved Thanksgiving. A time to slow down before the typical whirlwind month of December. A holiday focused around quality time with loved ones. For sufferers of MCAS, the holidays often bring added or unique struggles as stress and dietary changes are common triggers. I decided that this year from Thanksgiving to Christmas I would challenge myself to 5 simple regular practices of gratitude to help me find more inner peace around the holidays in order to focus on what it’s really all about! I challenge you to also incorporate one, two, or all five of these practices into the next month or so:
- The Gratitude Jar
I know this idea is a little cliche, but I had to include it! We are often quick to look ahead to the next year, but we ought to stop and reflect on the past seasons more often. Let’s take a moment to pause and savor the good and the ugly – embrace our successes and acknowledge our struggles – of the past year, before jumping into 2018. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, once a day write down something positive – or constructive – that happened in 2017 on a little scrap of paper and put it into a mason jar. It could be something small like a successful walk around the block, a beautiful sunset or something that made you laugh, or a monumental memory like an across-the-country airplane trip or a month without needing emergency medications. As an alternative project, you could also focus the jar solely on your good memories with one special someone, and then gift it to them. Don’t forget to re-read the final filled product as you celebrate the new year!
- One Person a Day
Take a moment each day to reach out to someone that you are grateful for, remind them of the things you love about them, and thank them if they’ve been supportive in your own journey. This could be a quick text message, a hand-written note, an email or a silly Snapchat message. Create a list at the beginning and check someone off every day. When all is said and done, you will have reached out to nearly 40 people (or you can always circle back to the same ones’ multiple times in different ways!) This exercise is fun and can even be therapeutic, depending on who you contact – I tried this a few years ago and made a point to reach out to people from my past that I had lost contact with, and it was a really powerful collective experience. It feels great for everyone involved!
- Medical Team Thank-You
Have you connected with any stellar medical practitioners in 2017? These could be allergists, naturopaths, hematologists, your primary care provider, lab technicians, nurses, PA’s, OBGYN’s, mental health specialists, massage therapists, physical or occupational therapists, nutritionists… you get the idea! Pick one or two who have really impacted you and your health and make sure you reinforce how incredible they are. It may seem like they don’t need it, but you’d be surprised at how infrequently they may get positive feedback or with how often they may feel burned out. Send them a card or a message, and also consider giving them a shining review online for all to see. (On the flip side, if you haven’t found a single person for that great medical team yet, you could always provide a kind but constructive commentary for some doctors you’ve seen in the past).
- Random Acts of Money or Time
Depending on which you have more of, make a point to donate either money or time around the holidays. Get connected with a family that you can bring a holiday meal to. Get involved with a non-profit event or soup kitchen. Or, try something simple and seemingly insignificant like randomly paying for someone’s coffee in line, or helping someone carry groceries to their car or shoveling their driveway. If you’re home-bound, you could send someone a useful subscription to a service or perhaps schedule them a massage or spa day to brighten their month. As a patient with chronic illness, I often feel like I have blinders on and am not always in tune with what’s going on around me, especially when I am symptomatically in “survival mode.” This exercise is a good reminder to shift my focus outside of my own situation and to hit the “reset” button with a healthy dose of compassion for others on a regular basis.
- 5 Minute Meditation Challenge
Make extra effort to slow things down despite what’s going on around you. Commit to 5 minutes/day of meditation and reflection. There are lots of apps out there that offer free guided meditations (my personal favorite is called “Calm”). If you have kids, get them involved in the exercise. Tune in for 5 minutes before bed or while on your work commute. Connect to your spiritual side in prayer, journaling, nature, yoga or breathing exercises. A simple daily 5-minute session can work wonders for boosting inner peace and a positive mindset!
What practices of gratitude do you gravitate to? Comment below!