by Naomi Atwater

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Many of us tap on our phones and check our notifications – half of which are email ads, texts about sales, and social media notifications.

While normal and seemingly harmless, we live in a world that constantly makes us feel like we don’t have enough. A lot of social media and advertisements change the way our brains think and make us feel a deep sense of missing out if our lives are not picture-perfect. An article by LinkedIn states, “The ultimate goal of advertising is to influence our behavior. Advertisers want us to buy their products, use their services, or support their causes. They achieve this by creating ads that tap into our needs and desires and make us feel like we are missing out if we don’t act.” We are intentionally and constantly told that our lives do not have enough. 

Over time, when we see content all day, every day, that tells us we don’t have enough, we start to feel like we are deeply missing out on everything. Social media itself is always sharing with us everyone’s best moments that we compare to our worst moments. McLean Hospital writes, “FOMO—fear of missing out—also plays a role… Missing experiences can create anxiety and depression. When people look online and see they’re excluded from an activity, it can affect thoughts and feelings, and can affect them physically.” No matter how much we have, we are always able to find more things that other people have that we do not. 

While we are pushed to discontentment every day, what would it look like to find gratitude this holiday season?

Imagine if we could enjoy the small things in front of us so much and we could forget even to notice what we are missing. We could walk into the store and not feel sad about all the things we can’t afford yet because we appreciate what we already have. Our holidays could be our own version of perfect, not the picture of perfect that Pinterest shows us. And our small moments, like a family movie night or building a snowman with your niece, could be the most valuable experiences.

Here are four ways to find gratitude this month.

1. Take a social media break.

Deleting social media for a period will turn off some of the things telling you that you don’t have enough. Try going without social media for a week or a month. If you are not ready or cannot do that, try limiting your use to certain times or monitoring how you feel after scrolling on Instagram. Pay attention if you notice anything different!

2. Set reminders on your phone to remember to be thankful.

If you are struggling to remember to have a positive outlook, leave reminders for yourself on notes around your house or notification reminders on your phone. They can be things like happy stories, memories, quotes, or just a simple reminder to look around and remember all you have to be thankful for. 

3. Follow de-influencers.

Social media is full of people telling us what we need and are missing out on, but lately, there is a “de-influencing” trend where people tell you what not to spend your money on. (What are de-influencers?) Try following a few “de-influencers” to have some voices in your feed that can counter other narratives. 

4. Share what you have.

This holiday season, as you’re thinking and remembering all that you have to be grateful for, consider donating to your favorite charity, giving to a friend in need, or simply inviting others around your table who don’t have somewhere to be during the holidays. Sharing releases hormones in your brain that make you more happy (according to Shareable), and reminds you of the abundance you already have. And, by sharing, you can demonstrate to others what it’s like to be less discontent and more grateful.