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Choices & Us – Keeping Your Sanity During Holidays – Is Gratitude Our “New Normal”?

Written by: Helen Kagan, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


We are at the end of 2022. Holiday Season. Running – driving – rushing – going nutz – looking for the right gifts for loved ones, beating traffic to get to the stores, spending hours & hours buying online, getting special foods for special Holiday dinners... Rushing to get everything in time. Do we really have time for Gratitude now? Are you crazy, one may ask? Well… As we find ourselves on the precipice of 2023, are we grateful that the disastrous yet transformational years of 2020 and 2021 are behind us? I, for instance, am very grateful for that. We experienced them as challenging years, maybe positive for some, but definitely negative for most… They were years of many losses, and many Lessons. Yet, can we still remind ourselves of the blessings that have been and still are present in our lives, even if they may look very small and insignificant compared to the losses and setbacks?

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." ‒ Ferris Bueller

These last few years taught us that we CAN be grateful, at least for who we are, what we do, and what we have vs. the opposite. We had to learn, embrace, and share Gratitude despite all challenges and undesirable circumstances. Being grateful doesn’t necessarily undo the suffering we personally experience, the traumas we’ve lived through, or the pain of those around us. But practicing Gratitude, integrating it into our daily lives, may and will remind us that there are meaningful moments in Life, many important and wonder-full things to live for and look forward to as we enter a new, and hopefully better, year 2023. The previous years taught us how raw and merciless life can be, they made us more aware about truth, lies, love, life, death, and… gratitude. What will be our “Gratitude Lessons” of 2022?

While preparing for my writing about Sanity, Holidays, and Gratitude - when I got stuck, of course I googled everything I could find about my topic… I’ve literally lost myself reading many wonderful stories, articles, even serious research materials, but I loved the most a cute little article “100 Ways to be grateful during Holidays” by Zuzu Perkal I found on I fell in love with her 100 simple ways that I very much related to, and then decided to write my own 7 Rituals to be grateful. I will elaborate on the three last ones (5, 6, and 7) as my favorite ones connecting them with my own insightful spiritual understanding as an artist, healer, and writer, of such phenomena as holidays, sanity, and gratitude ‒ our, possibly, “new normal”.

Just a small exercise to break the proverbial ice (it’s December afterall…) Let’s think together please ‒ isn't there anything good in our lives? Despite the troubles of the previous years, despite the hardships ‒ isn't there anything we're thankful for? Can we just be thankful that we all (at least those who read this article) are alive; thankful for each other; for our families and friends; food on the table; thankful for long evenings of binge-watching TV; for continued health; for beautiful sunrises, full moon, for holding hands; crispy snow; kissing a baby; walking on the beach; your doggie; having your home sweet home… Yes, we can. And we should (even though I don’t like this word :) But honestly, how can we NOT be grateful for all these things, hah?

My 7 Rituals to be Grateful (during Holidays and beyond :)

1. Make a list of things you are thankful for.

It doesn’t have to be a long “never-ending” list which is even difficult to read. You can start from one – just one very simple thing you are grateful for – like for instance, your Life, your family, kids, friends, having a job, coffee, lunch, roof over your head, etc., etc. Notice the smallest things in your surroundings you can be grateful for. Just do it every day, add a few more to your list – and you’ll be surprised how fast it will be growing! Along with your gratitude.

2. Contact (call, email, text, write a letter to) your parents.

If they are still alive, best of all – call and talk to them. They really need it, and they deserve it. They need to hear from you, they need to know you’re OK, they worry about you simply because they are your parents. Regardless of your current or long-standing relationship with them – just call and talk to them. If they’re not alive, still spend some time in that sacred space where you can connect with them mentally, telepathically, from your heart and soul. Thank them wholeheartedly for everything they’ve done for you.

3. Discover, recognize, and be grateful for blessings in your life.

Then, if you can, become supportive and encourage people in your family, your friends, colleagues, people in your environment to find their inner strength & greatness to be grateful for. They will be forever grateful to you for doing that as it might be quite difficult for some to do it on their own…Then thank God, Universe, your lucky stars, your parents, friends, anyone you feel like thanking, for every one of the blessings you have in your life.

4. Believe in yourself and be grateful for everything you are.

Let your gratitude be very authentic, and let it radiate out of you so strong that other people, even those who are living on and operating from very low-vibrational energies, or are just in a bad mood, or always see a glass half-empty, can feel your high-vibrational energy of Gratitude, and hopefully, will be able to embrace it. You are in charge of your own reality. You are the one who can make gratitude your “new normal”. You can also help others who are non-believers or are just too unhappy to be able to do it on their own.

5. Love yourself. Just the way you are.

Start from feeling grateful that you ARE. Sounds a little strange? Well… Can you be grateful that you are “alive and kicking”? I can. And I AM immensely grateful, every day, that I wake up in the morning, can take a shower, have my coffee, breakfast, can create, paint, design unique clothes from my art, cook, write, go to meetings, show in the Galleries, develop websites, swim in the pool (spinal injury), do a lot of other little and big things every day… ‒ I am grateful for all of them. But, we can’t feel grateful, or even worthy of anything without first embracing a basic concept of “Self-Love”. You most likely heard that no one (including the Universe, God, Angels, and all possible Sources) can love you more than you love yourself. Moreover, you can only receive from any outside source exactly what you’re allowing to give to yourself from your inside Source ‒ i.e., receive from yourself. Many people get lost in this one, but it is really simple – you can’t expect to be given something from anywhere until you allow yourself to receive it – which is one of the main principles of Self-Love. But how does one know what Self-Love could be if they never experienced it? I can define Self-Love as an unconditional experience of love for yourself no matter who and what you are, do, or have; what is going on with you and/or around you or in the world. You love & accept yourself just the way you are, and that’s the whole meaning of it. You are loved, and you are grateful for that. It doesn’t depend on you being smart or not smart, pretty or not, talented or not, etc. It doesn’t depend on you being something or anything. It is about an unconditional acceptance of yourself. And, if it doesn’t sound too crazy (or even if it does), you can write a “thank you” note to yourself and read it every night before you go to bed or stick it to your bathroom mirror and read it every morning. It helps. And it also helps you to create your own “new reality”…

Rituals are very good tools for you and for practicing being grateful. No matter what your professional occupation or personal lifestyle is, it is very important to create your daily routines. “Morning routine” is an amazing healing tool that grounds you and sets the stage to maintain the high-vibrational frequencies for the day. Meditation, breathing exercises, singing loud (for instance in the shower - a perfect tool :), doing Yoga, Qi-Gong, journaling, writing, playing music, doing “morning pages” (as in Julia Cameron “Artist’s Way” wonderful bestseller), walking, jogging, just moving your body and thus your energy that needs to get unstuck — use whatever modality or a combination of them that works for you. For instance, I’ve written hundreds and hundreds of “morning pages” when I was in various groups to work with “Artist’s Way”. And then I choose other tools from my “healing toolbox” and combine them, just trusting my intuition following what feels right at the moment. No less important is your “evening routine”‒ pay attention to what you do before you go to sleep? Do you listen to relaxing music, meditations, do you read, pray, say your “gratitudes for today”? We are living in quite a stressful world, even beyond the Holiday Season! Especially considering a very stressful nature of our external environment, we need to pay very close attention, love and nurture our internal world. There are plenty of psychological and emotional difficulties in handling and dealing with the current reality, jobs, lack of them, health issues, pandemic – economic – lifestyle changes – and other related complications and limitations, inevitable eating, resting, and sleeping disturbances, and multiple factors affecting our normal “well-being” which, unfortunately, is becoming our “new normal”… Can we change that? We can start being grateful for little things (see above), we can begin practicing new routines and rituals conducive to creating “peace of mind”, we can create our own “new normal”! I believe it is in our power to change our “old patterns” that are not helpful and introduce new ones. Remember? “Change your pattern — change your Life”.

7. Do what you love. Find what makes you happy. Express yourself! (even if you have a million of other things to do…)

We all heard it many times – do what you love, and money will follow. Right? But is it ALWAYS about money only? What about your happiness, joy, peace of mind? I believe it is very important to find, choose, or create what makes you happy. What is it for you? Is it playing music, writing poems, singing in the shower, dancing, journaling, hiking, painting, crocheting, singing, making cakes? Just get creative! It doesn’t matter what you will do, really, but it will help you to move your stuck energy & raise your vibration, which in turn will make you so grateful to every little thing you’ll discover you love having or creating very much…

One of my passions for example, is dancing (of course it comes after creating art – which is my primary creative outlet, or at least I think so…). Thus for me, it would probably be the first choice when I need to move my energy, to get unstuck, to bring myself to a higher vibrational place where I feel Love, Light & Gratitude regardless any unwanted circumstances… I’ve been dancing every possible dance including Shamanic Trance Dance (one of my favorites), Chakra dance, Ballroom dances (not my favorite), and my super favorites ‒ East Coast Swing, Boogie-Woogie, Lindy Hop and other ones from that wonder-full era of Big Bands & Dixielands. So, even in those crazy times of isolation and quarantines, when we could’t even go anywhere, let alone — dance with somebody 8ft apart! – I’d just put my favorite music on (Big Band, Swing, Jazz), and just danced “like nobody’s watching”, to shift my energy, to get unstuck, to feel better. And you know what? I always feel immensely grateful that besides the fact that I love it so much, I CAN dance despite my injuries… I am so grateful I can cry. And this feeling of gratitude is similar to when I finish creating my next “masterpiece” and I am just standing there crying and being speechless because it was a Divine Intervention, a Divine Guidance assisting me all the way… And I am forever grateful for being able to create, or rather co-create, and for this sacred Connection with the Divine.

Usually, I do some combo of a few “healing rituals” daily. I integrate some movement, meditation, breathing, chakra clearing, Yoga or Qi-Gong, music, etc. – it all depends on how much time I have today, and some other factors like: did I paint non-stop last night? am I going to spend 25H today on creating some important media campaign? do I have to be writing an article for Brainz Magazine or preparing for a new Art Show? is there a family emergency? and so on… Of course, there are always priorities. Yet… you can still get creative. Maybe just in a small way, just make a first step to allow yourself just that – be creative. Express yourSelf! And… make it a daily routine. Yes, even when you are crazy busy with your Holiday routines. Actually ‒ especially when you are crazy busy with your Holiday routines, because these are the ways to keep your sanity during and beyond the Holidays. You will be forever grateful to yourself for that, trust me!

“When people in great numbers choose to practice, integrate and embody gratitude, the cumulative force that is generated can help create the kind of world we all hope for and desire for ourselves and for future generations.” Angeles Arrien. Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life

HelenKagan HealingArts.

One of my own very strong (positive!) beliefs is that art heals. And this is exactly why I continue creating, in many different ways, shapes, and forms! I believe that art is a catalyst for healing individuals, society, and environment. I believe that for many of us, creatives, art is a spiritual path, a transformational process, a way of being. I believe in the inter-connectedness of mind, body, and spirit. I believe that now, more than ever, our World needs the positive energy and spiritually-based intentions, beliefs, and values. As a statement of all my beliefs, my “HealingArts” is my unique way to synergistically bring together fine art, expressive arts, and art of healing to enhance wellbeing, make right choices, bring Love & Light, practice gratitude, embrace humanity.

I’ve become a published author rather suddenly… continue to work on 2 exciting books “Artist of the Future. Embodying Light, Love & Gratitude” and “From M.E.S.S. to E.A.S.E. ‒ a Journey to YourSelf”; was published in a Bestseller Book “We’re All In This Together” ; and am currently co-authoring a Book on Authenticity with Jack Canfield. But my most attention and intention are and always will be dedicated to developing my new unique venue integrating Art, Fashion, Design, and Healing – WearableHealingArts™ – to make healing through art more accessible to anyone. Our big commercial platform is almost ready… Stay tuned! In the meantime, please visit to enjoy my healing colors, and perhaps even to meditate on the above concepts about Holidays, Sanity, and Gratitude, and what is our “new normal”…

Next article in my Series “Choices & Us” on this new creative Journey of HealingArts™, will be published next month ‒ already in 2023! It will be about Success, Failure, and 7 Habits of highly successful people. Thanks for reading!

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Helen Kagan, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Helen Kagan Ph.D., a scientist, psychologist, artist, a pioneer of creating art with the intention to heal, is a creator of unique HealingArts™ for 30 years. Helen believes art is a catalyst for healing individuals & society and engaging Healthcare & Hospitality to encourage healing through art. As a severe PTSD survivor who dedicated her life to helping others, she synergistically integrates Fine Art, Expressive Arts & Art of Healing. “HealingArts” shown in multiple International Galleries, States, Countries, and Catalogs, won awards, named "Collectible Artist". Her Mission now is to develop a new unique venue integrating fashion, design, art & healing ‒ WearableHealingArts™ ‒ to make healing through art accessible to everyone.



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