Words of Wisdom for this Holiday Season

Worry vs. Gratitude

We have all been through a, as I call it, “wonderfully interesting” time, the tail of which we are still experiencing now. While circumstances are serious, and the implications should not be taken lightly, it has been interesting to me to view the full cross-section and variety of reactions and responses to it.

I have, over the last almost two years now, observed everything from complete flippancy to an all-consuming worry, concern and a withdrawal within that, in many cases, can create greater risks than maybe the environment, more specifically the virus.

What I have come to realize is that, for me, in times such as these, the craziness creates an opportunity for self-assessment, analysis, and re-visiting of my personal priorities. Personally, I try not to worry about that which I can’t control.

“Worrying is using your imagination to create something you don’t want.” ~Abraham Hicks.

I love this quote, and it’s one I try to live by. It reminds me of an anecdote I often reference.

A psychology professor was teaching stress management principles to her students. She raised a glass of water, everyone expecting they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”

Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple of pounds.

She replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight will make my arm ache a little. If I hold it all day long, my arm will begin to feel numb, even paralyzed and eventually cramp up forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”

As the students nodded their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water. Focus on them for a little while and nothing very negative happens. Focus on them longer and you begin to ache a little. Focus on them all day long, and you will start to feel completely numb and paralyzed, incapable of doing anything else — until you drop them.”

Many times I’ve joked with friends and associates that “you only have a finite number of worries and then you die. So don’t use up a good worry unnecessarily, as all you’re going to do is shorten your life”.

Obviously, this is said in jest, but I think some folks literally worry themselves to death; or, more softly-put, worry themselves out of a good life.

While, throughout the pandemic, I’ve tried to be prudent and think through the plethora of varied opinions, amidst all that I’ve tried not to worry either about direct causation of a virus on me and my family etc, or about other peoples’ reactions and responses — simply put, about that which I have little or minimal control.

One of the ways I’ve tried to do that is to focus on what I am grateful for. It seems to me that one cannot be consumed with worry and simultaneously thankful for the blessings of life.

I actively choose to be thankful — full of thanks — focused on gratitude, rather than worry.

And I think, at the cusp of this season of Thanksgiving, conclusion, renewal, and fresh hope, such an orientation can be in nothing but blessing in one’s life.

The best antidote to worry is gratitude. Focus on the good things in your life and your worries will have no power over you. Don’t think about that glass of water, how full it is, or how heavy it is, be grateful you have it at all.

So get in the habit of gratitude, now is as good a season as any to do so, of not worrying, of actively choosing not to worry — and one of the ways to do that is to focus on what you’re thankful for.