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Johnson: A time of gratitude amid the challenges  

By Crystal Mullen Johnson 

This holiday season is a great opportunity to reflect on your blessings. Gratitude is an acknowledgment of what you are thankful for; doing so broadens your perspective and enhances your mood. 

This year has been an emotional roller coaster ride with the highs and lows. We have witnessed many losses, economic turmoil, racial injustice, and an unprecedented presidential election. In the midst of difficulties, search for the silver lining. I realize the challenge of focusing on the good when life feels unpleasant; take the bad with the good.

This holiday season I am grateful for good health, my family, the ability to be a blessing to others, and an opportunity to connect with you with an encouraging message. This year has been unique and allowed me to grow personally and professionally; however, I truly miss spending time with my family and traveling with my close friends. I encourage you to count your blessings even when there may be challenges in your life. 

Research has found that expressing gratitude improves your mood by releasing dopamine, a neurochemical that makes you feel good. According to WebMed, “Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in behavioral and physical functions including pleasure, reward, motivation, attention, bodily movement, sleep and heart rate.”

Self-help author Melody Beattie wrote, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal in a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates vision for tomorrow.”

Practice expressing gratitude: Create a gratitude journal. Journaling provides you the emotional space to vent your feeling on paper and turn the pages to reflect on your growth. Journaling will help you declutter your thoughts to clear your mind and improve your decision making. 

Affirm what you are grateful for by writing down positive affirmations or verbalizing affirmations during your day. Positive affirmations can improve your self-confidence and motivate you.  We all can use some daily motivation in the midst of chaos. You can develop personal affirmations, read affirming quotes and/or biblical scriptures that affirm positive feelings or what you desire to change. 

During an unprecedented time in our country, we have become distant, isolated and impersonal due to COVID-19.  Consider sending a handwritten letter or card to your loved ones to remind them you are thankful for them.

Value what’s important. Think about what you have as opposed to have not. Don’t use the comparison stick glancing at what others may have gained, always-express gratitude for what you have.

This holiday season I encourage you to spend time in self-reflection acknowledging all of your blessings in 2020 and implement the practice of gratitude in 2021, this practice will help improve your well-being.

I hope that each day brings you happiness and all the blessings you long for, Happy Holidays!


Crystal Mullen-Johnson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Registered Play Therapist in Birmingham with more than 16 years of experience in providing counseling. Strive Counseling Services is a private practice located in downtown Birmingham. Contact us at (205) 721-9893 to inquire about Telehealth Services or visit Strive Counseling Services—http://www.strivebhm.com