We all hear about “peace on Earth” this time of year. In fact, we deeply crave it. But between overpacked schedules, obligatory family visits, exhausting shopping trips, and other holiday stressors, most of us find peace elusive.
The good news is, there is a path to peace even in the midst of seasonal chaos. It comes not from trying to control your circumstances (which isn’t always possible) but from shifting how you look at them.
I love the saying “Gratitude doesn’t change things for you, it changes you for things.” When we can learn to come from a place of gratitude, we see things differently. There’s a mindset shift that brings peace.
Grammy-winner Alex Wand, composer/vocalist Rayko and Frank Kilpatrick are on a mission to fill the world with gratitude. Their meditation series (Gratitude series) combines “microtonal” music, vocals, visuals, and on-screen lyrical messages in a unique way that keeps your attention. The program is designed to help train the brain and the series is a focal point for their strategy on supporting at-risk populations throughout the year but especially around the holidays.
Of course, you can’t just flip a switch and BOOM! you’re grateful. Gratitude evolves over time. It’s about building some small, daily habits into your routine—and the holiday season is the perfect time to start. For example:
Make room in your life for gratitude and peace. Often FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) drives us to stretch ourselves too thin, especially during the holidays. But it’s hard to feel joyful and grateful when you are overcommitted. Know that it’s totally okay to turn down invitations if you don’t feel like being around others, or to spend the weekend recharging. In fact, immersing yourself in the Gratitude meditation series is a great way to spend the time you free up when you cut back on all the “going and doing.”
The Gratitude program can be an alternative to giving in to the toxic phenomenon of FOMO. When people remove what they’ve been conditioned to see as a “reward” they may feel empty, like something is lacking. This program is a great replacement. It’s fine to feel grateful for friends and opportunities, but we need to feel grateful for quiet moments and downtime as well.
Prepare your mind for gratitude. It’s important to make time for meditation or contemplation. Think of this as strength training for your mind. At first it might seem difficult to find the time, but it teaches you to get relaxed and centered, which is a vital life skill. Over time, it will get easier and easier to drop into a space of quiet contentedness where gratitude is abundant. “Mind training” should be a part of your daily health routine, like brushing your teeth or stretching. But also, get into the habit of grabbing opportunities to meditate or watch the Gratitude series—like when you’re getting ready for your day or waiting for your child at soccer practice.
There are very real advantages to this type of mind training. It helps you stay in a state of gratitude, which enables you to feel peace. It keeps you in the present moment, which is an incredibly powerful technique for keeping anxiety and depression at bay. It makes your life richer and can help you stay calm during any holiday turmoil that comes your way.
Make mind training a part of your self-care routine. People tend to think of self-care in terms of diet, exercise, and sleep, but we often ignore what we put into our minds, what we think about and dwell on. This is a mistake. Getting intentional about what we watch, listen to, and infuse into our consciousness is just as important—what we focus on shapes our mental state, impacts our relationships, and influences every choice we make.
Stop allowing junk food into your consciousness. We should monitor our cognitive input in the same way we regulate our intake of fats, carbs and calories. What you’re doing is intentionally creating the best version of yourself.
Think of gratitude as a gateway to overall happiness. Neuroscience has proven over and over again that a focus on gratitude literally rewires your brain to be happy. When people engage in practices like meditating on gratitude (as the Gratitude series encourages) or by keeping a daily journal of what they are grateful for, they tend to feel more optimistic and positive about their lives. (That’s happiness!) What’s more, they may sleep better, exercise more, and enjoy better physical health than those who don’t focus on gratitude.
Focus on the small things. (It’s easier during the holidays!) There are plenty of things you can (and should) be grateful for in life’s simple moments. A hot cup of coffee. Toasty sheets fresh from the dryer on a cold evening. A catchup phone call from a dear old friend. The smell of holiday dinner wafting from the kitchen. The look of wonder in your toddler’s eyes when they see a holiday light show. Just start paying attention and let yourself feel the wonderment.
Say “thank you” (and really mean it). When someone does something kind for you—maybe your boss urges you to leave early to get a good seat at your nephew’s holiday play, or the cashier wraps your purchases with care instead of just tossing them in a bag—recognize it with a sincere “thank you.” Be specific about why what they did matters. (This helps you mean it, which is important; mindless “thank yous” don’t count.) Recognition, even in small doses, makes others feel great, but it also gives you a boost of joy. And it exercises those gratitude muscles.
Manage your expectations. Real life doesn’t look like a Norman Rockwell painting or a holiday spread in Better Homes and Gardens. Your home may not be picture perfect, and even during dinner parties someone is likely to get sick, make a judgmental comment, or burst into tears during the salad course. That’s life. It’s messy and complicated…and beautiful.
It’s hard to be grateful and focused on perfection at the same time. Keep in mind that even best-laid plans seldom go off without a hitch. Your holidays can still be pretty great. Remember to savor the good moments and seek out loving feelings toward your friends and families. Find the love in every situation.
The best thing about gratitude is that it’s contagious. If you put it out there, chances are very good you will get it back! And don’t forget: others are watching you and will see how empowered you have become just by being happy.
The quest for peace on Earth is universal. Make the effort in the upcoming year to focus on gracious and loving feelings and that peace will find its way to you. You will be amazed at the new and joyful places this attitude of gratitude will lead you.