At one time or another, everyone experiences sorrow and hardship. While the holidays are full of joy and celebration, it can be a hard time for many. Some may feel inadequate and stressed as the to-do list grows, others may experience a strong sense of longing for loved ones missed. Whatever you may be feeling, below is a list of 6 simple ideas to help you keep a grateful heart this holiday season.
- Serve Others
One of my favorite examples is of our Savior. How devastating it must have been for Christ the day he learned that his dear friend and cousin, John the Baptist, was martyred. Yet despite his personal grief, that same day, He compassionately blessed and healed a great multitude, fed the 5,000, and walked on water to rescue His disciples who were in the midst of a great storm. His example teaches us that our lives truly become more meaningful, and whole, when we forget about our own heartache and lose ourselves in the service of others.
In college, I made it a point to spend time at a local homeless shelter during finals week. It was the most stressful time of the year for me, yet I looked forward to the small moment of time where I could forget about my own problems and focus on others. Service helps us put things into perspective and remember all we truly have to be grateful for. When we serve, we get to be God’s hands—and that alone, is a reason to give thanks.
- Make a Gratitude Token
We know there are days when we simply forget to have gratitude—that’s why a gratitude token (an object used as a visual or tangible reminder) is such a useful tool. Some ideas may include keeping a small stone or penny in your pocket or shoe, putting a picture or saying somewhere in your home, or setting a unique background on your cell phone. The key is to place an object in a location where you’ll see it often. Every time you see or feel your gratitude token, pause, take a deep breath, and let God’s love flood your heart. Think of a few things you’re grateful for, or recite a verse of scripture that you find particularly comforting. You’ll be surprised how much this small act will brighten your spirits!
- Confide in the Savior
During Christ’s atonement, He felt the weight of our individually unique trials. He alone knows exactly what you’re going through. He is your friend and your confidant. Though it may seem harder to reach out to Him during difficult times, this is when we need Him most. Ask for His aid as you kneel in prayer, and seek His wisdom and strength as you read from His words. Most importantly, take comfort in His promise that He will lighten your burdens so that “ye cannot feel them upon your backs.” (Book of Mormon: Mosiah 24:14) Christ’s atonement truly has the power to fill your heart with gratitude even when it seems there is nothing to be grateful for. Pray that you can be filled with gratitude—He will always answer.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal
After my little girl was born, I battled some major baby-blues. I would cry every day for no apparent reason at all. I felt like a failure as a mother and extremely inadequate. My husband had the brilliant idea of keeping a gratitude journal. The goal was to write down 5 things we were thankful for each day. Some days the list was longer, and sometimes it was difficult to think of even one thing. On particularly hard days, I looked back at past entries and let gratitude spill from the pages and into my heart and countenance. It truly brightened my spirits and helped me through a very tough time. Doing this as a family is a wonderful way to spread gratitude throughout your home. Indeed, there is always something to be grateful for, even in your darkest hour.
In Proverbs 17:22 we learn that, “A merry heart doeth good like medicine.” When darkness threatens to overcome or you’re at your wits end, sometimes it’s easier (and far less painful) to laugh. Have you ever watched children play? Notice their carefree nature and how easily laughter escapes their lips. Let us learn from their example! One of my favorite quotes by Marjorie Pay Hinckley says, “Don’t take yourself too seriously. The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.”
- Just Keep Swimming
As so wonderfully stated by the wise Dori in “Finding Nemo,” some days, all we can do is “just keep swimming.” Time heals all wounds, and in the grand scheme of things, this is just a small moment. No matter how painful today may seem, tomorrow will come. Life will go on, and “this too shall pass.” In the meantime, try and find joy in the journey. Spend time outside, pick up a new hobby, pamper yourself, or listen to uplifting music. Whatever you do, remember that your trial won’t last forever, and it’s ok if sometimes all you can do is hold on.
Though it’s difficult to realize in the midst of a trial, our pain and suffering brings us closer to Christ. It increases our compassion and helps us learn. Remember the Savior’s promise, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
You are never alone. So when times get tough, serve with all your might, make a gratitude token, confide in the Savior, write down what you’re grateful for, laugh, and if all else fails, remember that God is by your side. “This too shall pass!” Pray to have gratitude in your heart, and let God’s light enter and heal the wounds therein. If you diligently strive to take a few moments each day to be grateful, I know that God will fill your heart with gratitude, and you’ll find true joy and peace—even in the midst of hardship.
And a big thank you to Tiffany Webster for this beautiful print and tags. Click the link below to download.