How to Get Grateful When You Feel Like the Grinch

How to Feel Grateful When Holidays Have You Down

By Harry H Harrison Jr.

Gratitude is the last thing many of feel this year, though we know deep in our bones we should be overflowing with it. First off, it’s the celebratory time of year. Then there’s family, family coming from around the country just to be together. Doesn’t that alone just give us a warm feeling (or a rush to find the Alka-Seltzer)? There are the decorations, neighborhoods are glowing in the dark, houses sparkling with Christmas trees and decorations. And there are the children just about to burst with excitement. Why isn’t that excitement contagious? Why aren’t we all as excited as the children? 

The real truth is, most of feel like the holidays have been thrust upon us, especially in households feeling the impact of a dire economy, those in the middle of a quarreling family or coping with a serious illness. Holidays in these situations can feel like something we just have to endure and get through, not a season to relish. It’s hard to feel gratitude when you’re angry about the whole thing. But there’s a better way.

The fact is holidays don’t have to shape us. Indeed we can actually shape how we feel about them. Here's how I believe we can actually feel gratitude in spite of circumstances that are crazy-making.

Avoid arguments

Even if your husband is totally wrong, even if you’ve been falsely accused, resolve to try and not change anybody’s mind since thousands of years of history has shown no one can actually change another person’s mind. If someone is angry with you, swallow your pride and make peace as quickly as possible. Arguments die when there’s no one to argue with.

RELATED Just Say No: How to REALLY Survive Holiday Stress 

Make a list of five things you’re grateful for every night

If you think this tip sounds cliche, just put that aside and hear me. No matter what’s going on in your life, you’re better off mentally dwelling on things that make you happy than on things that make you reach for Xanax. I knew a woman dying of breast cancer who made such a list every night. She found wonderful things to be grateful for while she was dying. It was very humbling. She died filled with gratitude. I make such a list now.

Make it your mission to help someone every day

Really you can start with complete strangers. It could be as simple as holding the door open for someone, or putting $20 in a Salvation Army pot, or complimenting someone you normally don’t get along with. The nicer you are to strangers, you’ll notice you’re family is strangely easier to get along with.

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Tell someone how much they mean to you

Spend time recalling specific events and write out what you want to say. Simply remembering the joy they once brought you will bring back that joy again. And the person you talk to will be overcome by surprise, joy and feel more gratitude for you. 

Give thanks

If the holidays have religious connotation for you, return to those roots. Otherwise, give thanks to the universe, a higher power, Mother Nature or whatever it is you believe holds the spirit of this season. If we give thanks for specific things and happenings in our life, we can’t help but be more grateful for our family, friends, and home. Saying thank you out loud or in our heads puts us in a better mood than dwelling on your mother. 


These “attitude adjustments work,” trust me. They work so well that people who use them actually look forward to the holidays.  

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Harry H Harrison Jr. is a NYTIMES best selling parenting author with over 3.5 million books in print. He has been interviewed on over 25 television programs, and featured in over 75 local and national radio stations including NPR. His books are available in over thirty-five countries throughout Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Norway, South America, China, Saudi Arabia and in the Far East. For more information visit


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