11/25/2013 10:19 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

What Will You Experience This Holiday Season?

Written by Jan Cloninger

Thanksgiving is the official launch of the holiday season. We start by giving thanks. We end with giving gifts. But in the rush and crunch of creating the perfect holiday season (parties, planning, purchasing) how often do you pause and sincerely experience appreciation for the big and little things in life that often get taken for granted?

How often do you stop and truly appreciate all that you have in your life and everything you are able to do? When was the last time you felt a sincere sense of gratitude for something like the water running from your tap or for electricity and all the modern conveniences that you use? When was the last time you stopped to appreciate a day when your body was functioning properly and your health was good? Take away any one of those things and you immediately experience the frustration of its loss, but not taking the time to experience gratitude can cause its own discomfort also.

So often in the busyness of our lives we forget to appreciate all the small, simple experiences -- a friendly exchange with another human being, the warmth of the sun breaking through on a cloudy day, the beauty of decorations adorning our surroundings. And when that happens we miss out on many of the basic joys life can bring. We end up measuring our day based on the tasks we've accomplished versus the quality of the experiences we've had. Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into seasons, and before we know it years can pass and we wonder why we're not enjoying our lives.

With the news media constantly reminding us of all the disasters and the darker side of humanity, and the marketing gurus trying to convince us that we're not okay just as we are (leading us to believe we'd be much happier if we'd simply buy their product!) it can be difficult to keep our focus on all we have to be grateful for.

However the opportunity to experience gratitude is ours at any point. We always have a choice. We can just as easily focus on all that we have as we move through our day as we can on what's wrong or where our expectations fall short. Focus on what you lack and you become cynical, frustrated and even depressed. Focus on all that you have and you remain strong in the face of whatever circumstances you face.

As you look back on the past seasons of your life, which way has your focus been? What would you like your focus to be this season?

What are you teaching your children about gratitude through your words and example? We're often focused on making sure they say "thank you" when they're little, but teaching them to experience gratitude is a process that continues throughout their lives.

This holiday season, take few moments to pause and reflect on someone you are grateful to have in your life. Then take a minute to let them know how you feel.

Consider sitting down as a family, and doing the same thing.

It is a gift the receiver will long remember. And, a wonderful holiday experience to share with your children.

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