Friday, 14 October 2016

Weekly Column: Be Thankful This Thanksgiving

This column went to press the week before Canadian Thanksgiving. To all those Canadians reading, hope you had a good 'un!

Be thankful this Thanksgiving

For many in the Midwest, it has been a year they would rather forget. While it’s tempting, and possibly justified, to be bitter about your current situation, it might help to take stock of what you have to be grateful for. Happy people will tell you that they are actively grateful and that the spirit of thankfulness is what inspires their joy. Wouldn’t you like to be one of them?

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are” -Marianne Williamson

The changes that families have faced over the last two years have been difficult and stressful. But Thanksgiving is an opportunity to recognize what you have to be thankful for. Even in hardship there is the prospect of growth, learning and transformation. Start anew with confidence that you have the inner strength to flourish in the face of adversity.

Share the positives, first

Have you ever had a quick visit with someone only to realize as it ends that you had nothing good to say? Although there may not be a lot of good news, focus on saying positive things and spreading a feeling of optimism. You may be faking it at first, but if you continue to alter your words and behaviour your emotions will eventually follow. Let the people you speak to leave your company feeling uplifted.

Surround yourself with optimism

If certain Facebook groups or websites get your blood boiling, ask yourself: what is your participation there actually accomplishing? Are you contributing to an online argument that, rather than educating, only serves to make others more entrenched in their own opinions? Do yourself a favour and disengage. Only you can control the quality of your online and personal interactions. If what you read online leaves you bitter for the day, stop reading it. Read hopeful, entertaining, educational material instead. Shut off apps that make you frustrated and angry. Don’t read the comments from online trolls. Go for a walk, clean your house, play with your kids. Do things that bring you joy and you will be joyful. While you may face stress and anxiety on a daily basis, it’s important for your mental health that you balance them with positive activities.

Be thankful for the hard stuff, too

This isn’t meant to diminish what families and business people have faced in the last two years. The thought of losing a business or a home is devastating and there’s been far too much of it. But what have your challenges taught you? In what ways are you stronger and wiser than you were before? Is your family closer, have you realized who your true friends are? What have you done to help and support someone, and in what ways have you yourself been helped and supported? Are there areas in your community where you feel you could step up and make a difference for the better?

Elevate yourself

Whether or not you have been affected by the economic downturn, it is good advice to find what makes you happy and do more of it. Ideally, this will be something that doesn’t cost you much money. What gives you strength? What makes you feel healthy and hopeful? For some it is church. Many find stress relief in exercise. Meditation helps with mental clarity and calm. Volunteering and philanthropy enriches everyone’s lives. If you have been struggling with feelings of helplessness, anger or fear, what can you do to turn your emotions around?

Focus on people rather than things

Relationships can be hard. Add in the stress of job loss, foreclosure, moving or a myriad of tough decisions and you may find that your possessions are the least of your worries. Do not escape into a bottle, a barroom, recreational drugs or other pastimes that will only drag you further down. Do the hard work necessary to keep your relationships strong and healthy. Rid yourself of the desire for more “stuff”. If you can no longer afford to keep up with the neighbours, stop trying. Opt out of the race to the bottom and stop purchasing what you don’t need and can’t pay for. Realize how simplifying your life and your budget, although a side effect of an unexpected down turn, might make you a stronger and more fulfilled person.

Sometimes you need a helping hand

Community supports like the Salvation Army food bank and The Olive Tree exist for times like these. If you can donate or volunteer this season, you might find the rewards outweigh the sacrifices. If you find yourself in need, reach out to these organizations and realize you are not alone. For added support, contact the Rural Distress Centre Hotline at 1.800.232.7288 or the Mental Health Helpline (toll free in AB) at 1.877.303.2642.

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