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Weaponized Gratitude

Key: Challenging times call for stronger overt actions to maintain our mental fitness.

Living It: Use purposeful, pointed and practiced acts of gratitude to sustain positive emotions and health.

Clinical Concepts: Applied gratitude and positive psychology for crisis situations.

This is not the year to get everything you want. This is the year to appreciate everything you have.

– Lori Deschene, Author

Around the nation it is a Thanksgiving like never before for most Americans. How are you honoring the holiday? According to AAA estimates, there is a significant drop in travel this Thanksgiving. My family will, for the first time in my memory, be gathering over Zoom, rather than at our ancestral homestead. And it looks like things are set to stay that way.

CBS News, my local outlet, quoted Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley as saying, “We are recommending that people cancel their planned family holiday gatherings. We are not going to get past this epidemic by Thanksgiving, by Hanukkah, or by Christmas.”

It’s not clinical, but strait talk: That sucks. As the COVID-19 numbers tick up will holiday cheer rise with it?

I’m here to say not only that it can, but that it must. We all have heard that the holiday season, while full of spirit and good times, can also be the most rampant for anxiety and depression. This year crucial pandemic precautions have the potential to result in more isolation, thus more depression and more stress and worry, thus more anxiety.

Today, on Thanksgiving, I offer you a choice. We can give in to the darkness or we can fight. If we choose to fight, a major weapon is gratitude.

I’ve been writing about gratitude for over a decade. I’m not going to give you a ton of data today, because there’s plenty I’ve already written, such as how “Cultivating gratitude,” experts say, “will not only improve your overall demeanor and increase your happiness, but also your health…exercise, diet…gratitude is also a stress buster, immune booster, and natural sleeping aid” that prompted one expert to declare that “if you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep,” from 2014’s Gratitude Sucks, which is a play on 2010’s Gratitude Doesn’t Suck.

Today we’re going to focus on how to amp up that gratitude for these trying times. You want that increased happiness, improved health, better sleep and boosted immune system? You gotta fight for it. You gotta weaponize your gratitude. But how is that different from 2019 gratitude?

Weaponized gratitude has three components:

It is Purposed: Rather than just being thankful (which is good), weaponized gratitude is part of a mental commitment to find things to be grateful for in the darkest of times, so that the darkness is not absolute—because only absolute darkness is true darkness. Purposed gratitude is even more powerful that every-day gratitude because it is a declaration that we will overcome the challenges around us.

It is Pointed: Just like any other weapon, weaponized gratitude has a cutting edge. It slices through the down feelings and turns the mood up. It is born of self-awareness. When we feel ourselves trending down, we hone that gratitude, look around for something—even if it’s that we’re healthy when so many are not—and we strike back. Pointed gratitude is an acceptance of the struggle within us and our acknowledgement that we have the power to choose if we rise or fall.

It is Practiced: As a former fencer, I can tell you that you don’t just pick up a saber and win a duel. It takes a daily routine of practiced gratitude to build the mental muscle memory so that our gratitude becomes second nature. Practiced gratitude strikes back as soon as it feels the threat of bitterness from within or challenge from without.

We can make the 2020 holiday season one to remember starting today. It starts with gratitude. If you find you need more ways to be grateful, please check out 2016’s Gratitude Engine for a good start. If you find you just can’t be grateful right now, I get it and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Last year I wrote Can’t.Be.Grateful just for you. I’d be honored if you gave it a look.

I leave you with my deepest thanks, long time or first-time readers, as well as a quote from one of my favorite actors who is no stranger to hard times. His optimism is inspiring and just what we need to make this holiday season full of joy, hope and gratitude.

With gratitude optimism becomes sustainable.

– Michael J. Fox, Overcomer

CBS News (2020) AAA Estimates 10% Drop In Thanksgiving Holiday Travel In 2020 As COVID-19 Cases Continue To Rise. Retrieved From: https://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2020/11/14/aaa-estimates-10-drop-in-thanksgiving-holiday-travel-in-2020-as-covid-19-cases-continue-to-rise/

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