It is Thanksgiving season here in the US. For many it is a favorite time of year to reflect on life and relationships with gratitude.

The holiday season is also a time when family drama can be at its height. Personal, cultural and sometimes political differences can surface at family gatherings that can turn them into soap operas and excellent examples of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™ in action.

Focusing on gratitude can be difficult if you get triggered by the DDT. Maybe it is Uncle John’s rude jokes that upset you, or Aunt Helen’s loud ramblings after one too many glasses of wine, or when Cousin Bill criticizes your politics.

It is difficult to stay centered and focused on gratitude if you feel victimized by family drama. One way to rekindle grateful feelings is to focus on what you appreciate.   Noticing even the smallest thing you like has the power to switch your irritation into a more positive feeling.

Neuro-researchers have verified that critical thoughts reduce blood flow to the brain while thoughts of appreciation and gratitude increase blood flow to both your brain and heart. Just five minutes a day in a state of appreciation lowers blood pressure and the stress hormones such as Cortisol, according to the Institute of Heartmath.

Annoyance, judging and feeling hurt keeps us focused on what’s missing and what’s wrong. This keeps us in the problem-focused and reactive Victim Orientation. In this state we will feel distant and remote—fertile ground for slipping into the DDT.

When we shift our focus to even the smallest things we appreciate, we begin to feel more ease, aliveness and joy that will sustain the shift into TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)™ and the Creator Orientation in which it thrives. What you appreciate, appreciates.

We are encouraged by a growing number of businesses who understand the value of appreciation by using an “appreciation practice” at the end of their meetings. Each person briefly states what they appreciate and listens without interruption while others share their appreciation. The appreciation practice only takes a few minutes and is an uplifting process that encourages attention toward contributions and the subtle qualities present in the process and people.

This appreciation practice can support your holiday experience. For example, your thoughts might become: “I notice that Uncle John has a contagious laugh” (rather than groan at his jokes) or, “I appreciate Aunt Helen’s family pictures” or “What a beautiful day it is today.”

You may choose to share out loud what you appreciate or keep the thoughts to yourself. Either way, when you intentionally focus on genuine appreciation, an increase in gratitude and thankfulness will naturally flow this holiday season.

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