We often get riddled in resentment at the world around us, whether it’s towards other people, our jobs or our lives in general. Oftentimes, the holiday season itself tends to bring out such resentment. We might feel hurt or ignored by our loved ones, or we might wistfully wish that our lives were more picture perfect, like what we see on TV. Unfortunately, the more we let these feelings in, the more power they have over us, undermining the holiday fun and good spirits. So, it’s important to work on transforming the resentment to gratitude to help us enjoy the holiday season as it should be enjoyed.
Gratitude is the act of acknowledging the goodness in our lives. When we are grateful for what we have, we realize that there is good in the world, and good beyond us, resulting in overall happiness and positivity. It helps us to connect to something larger than ourselves – whether to those around us, nature or to a higher being.
Positive psychology research has found that gratitude is associated with not only happiness and positivity, but also improved physical and mental health. It has been found to help individuals deal with life’s challenges, demonstrate stronger self-control and build healthier relationships. Moreover, gratitude has been linked to reduced depression and increased life satisfaction.
We feel and express gratitude in our day to day lives in different ways, such as by thinking about good memories from the past, appreciating good fortune as it comes to us or by being optimistic about the future. Gratitude is a quality that can be further cultivated with practice. For more on the topic, you can check out this short talk by Dr. Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis, on practicing gratitude in one’s daily life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8964envYh58.
In addition, here are some simple things you can do to eliminate resentment and cultivate gratitude in your own life:
- Know how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling grateful, focus on the positive emotions and encourage those. If there are seeds of resentment growing inside of you, acknowledge and understand them before making a conscious decision to turn the resentment to gratitude.
- Give thanks. Write someone a thank you letter or send them a gift. Even thanking them mentally can make you happier and nurture your relationship with another person.
- Count your blessings. Pick a time of the week to sit down and think about, or even write down, the blessings in your life. This is especially helpful if you feel bogged down in negativity.
- For those of you that are religious, praying can foster gratitude and happiness.
- Focus on the big picture. Are you basing your judgment of a person or a situation on a limited set of actions or events? If so, think of the big picture. Your partner may have snapped at you today, but what are they like as a whole? You may be overwhelmed at work before going on holiday, but are you generally satisfied with your career? Thinking of the big picture can help to avoid some of resentment that builds up over small things.
So this holiday season, make it a point to feel good and to feel grateful! You’ll be glad you did.