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Monday Mom challenge: Be grateful AND appreciative

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

And know the difference!

It’s that time of year. Thanksgiving and the December holidays are rapidly approaching and it’s time to count our blessings for the many good things in our lives. However, does the tradition of noting thankfulness have to come with blind acceptance for every single thing in our lives? And are thankfulness and appreciation the same thing?

And know the difference!

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for many moms. It's a family-centered holiday that focuses on what is often intangible in our lives: the love, health and support of family and friends. Sure, we demonstrate it with a tradition that is real and tangible -- a hearty meal -- but the meaning is so much deeper than a good pumpkin pie. But you know that already.

All or nothing?

Sometimes we can feel somewhat conflicted in our Thanksgiving reflections, and maybe even feel guilty for not being thankful for absolutely everything in our lives. We may put the "shoulds" on ourselves: I should be thankful for this, I should be thankful for that -- and then feel guilty when we aren't.

Let's be honest: it can be really hard to feel thankful for everything in our lives, especially the harder stuff. Major illness in the family, financial crises, relationship struggles…how can you be thankful for that? Should you even try?

Thankfulness vs. appreciation

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Cut yourself some slack. Even though you are deeply thankful for what is good in your life, it doesn't mean you must suddenly deny what is tough in your life. Thankfulness and appreciation are different emotions, though they do sometimes overlap, sometimes subtly. Maybe you should think about things you appreciate and things for which you are thankful separately. You can appreciate the lessons learned from the harder stuff, but you don't have to be thankful for it.

For example, you can be thankful for a safe and warm home and nice neighborhood in which to live. But that crabby neighbor with the mean dog? You don't have to be thankful for her or the dog -- while appreciating that your interactions with that neighbor have boosted your conflict management skills and drawn you closer to other terrific neighbors. You may be thankful for your child's health; you don't have to be thankful for the health crisis he endured, but you can appreciate that you are now more deeply thankful for health because of it.

Thanksgiving is a holiday of thankfulness, true, but it is also an opportunity for reflection. This year, let those reflections be a bit more nuanced. You don't have to be precisely thankful for everything in your life, even while you appreciate all of it.

Keep reading for more on being thankful

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